Step 4: Create Your Conversation Guide

This conversation tool will help you make a plan for talking with your child about your cancer. Remember, thinking about what you are going to say to your child before you have the conversation can make things go a lot more smoothly when the time comes to talk.

Your ideas will be copied into a conversation guide that you can save and print out to use while you prepare for the talk with your child — or even during the talk.

There are places for you to to your conversation guide.

You can also check the boxes next to items that you want to remember during your talk.

Plan Your Talk
Answer
Questions
Choose Your Words
Goals
Set goals for your talk.

By the end of the first talk, I would like my child

to feel

and know

Who
Who would be the best person to share the news about your cancer with your child?

I will share the news with my child.

will share the news with my child.

When
When do you think this news should be shared with your child?

The best time to share the news with my child is

Where
Where do you think the talk should take place?

I would like the talk to take place

Get Started
Get the conversation started.

I’d like to talk with you about something important. Is this a good time?

I’ve gotten some news about my health. Would now be a good time to talk about it?

Next: Answer Questions
Speaker Speaker How serious is it?
It’s true that cancer is a serious illness, but that doesn't mean I will die from it.
Cancer is very serious. That's why I'll be working with my doctor to fight it.

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Speaker Speaker Are you going to die?
Everyone's going to die someday. I'm working with my doctor to fight this cancer so that I'll live for a long time.
If I'm going to die of cancer, we'll have some warning that it's going to happen.

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Speaker Speaker Will your hair fall out?
My treatment might make my hair fall out.
If a lot of my hair falls out, I might get the rest cut off. Would that bother you?
No, my treatment won’t cause me to lose my hair.

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Speaker Speaker Do I have to tell my friends?
That’s up to you. Remember that people we know may talk about my cancer, so your friends might hear about it even if you don’t tell them.
Would you rather tell your friends yourself or are you okay if they hear about it from someone else?
Do you want your friends to know?
Do you worry about how your friends will react?

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Speaker Speaker Who will take care of me if you can’t?
I will continue to take care of you while I'm getting treatment. But if something gets in the way of that, I’ll make sure you are taken care of. I was thinking about talking to [name of relative or friend] about helping us out if we need it. What do you think about that idea?
There are lots of people who love you, like [names of relatives or friends]. They can help if I can’t take care of you.

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Add Your Own Words:
Speaker Speaker Why did you get cancer?
Doctors don’t always know why someone gets cancer. Sometimes it just happens.
Cancer doesn't happen because of things that you did or said or thought about.

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Speaker Speaker When will your cancer go away?
I’m working with my doctor to make the cancer go away. I don't know exactly how long that will take, but I promise to stick with it.
My doctor will help me do everything I can to make the cancer go away.

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Add Your Own Words:
Speaker Speaker Will I get cancer when I grow up, too?
It could happen. But maybe by the time you grow up, doctors will know how to prevent cancer — or how to cure it!
Add Your Own Words:
Speaker Speaker What is cancer?
The body is made of lots of cells.
Cells are so small that you can only see them under a microscope.
Normal cells are healthy cells that keep our bodies working the way they should.
Cancer cells aren’t normal cells. They can affect how well our body works.
Cancer cells usually grow really fast. They get in the way of the normal cells.
A tumor is a lot of cancer cells that have grown together and are crowding out the normal cells.
The tumor (or the cancer cells) shouldn’t be in my body. Because cancer can keep growing or spread to other parts of my body, I’m going to need treatment.
Doctors try to help people who have cancer tumors get rid of them in a few different ways.
Sometimes people with cancer can get an operation to take the tumor out of the body.
Sometimes people with cancer get radiation therapy, which is where a machine sends radioactive rays to the tumor to help get rid of the cancer cells.
Sometimes people with cancer get chemotherapy, which is where special chemicals that destroy cancer cells are put into the body. These chemicals can also hurt some healthy cells.
If you want to know more about my type of cancer, I can get that for you from my doctor.

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Add Your Own Words:
Next: Choose Your Words

Here is a list of important things to say that you can add to your conversation guide. Adding them will help you remember what you want to share with your child during the talk. Remember that you may need to say these things more than once.

Important Things to Say During Your Talk
You can’t catch cancer from another person.
Nothing you did or thought caused my cancer.
My cancer can be treated.
Even though I have cancer, I will make sure you are taken care of.
You can talk to me about any feelings you have.
You can help.

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Things to Say About Feelings
It’s okay to feel scared.
It can feel scary to talk about cancer.
A lot of people would think this is scary.
I can tell this news worries you and it’s okay to feel that way.
It upset me to find out I have cancer. It might upset you, too.
When people find out they are sick, they can have lots of different feelings. The people who love them can also have lots of different feelings. They might feel mad, sad, or scared — or all of those feelings at once. They can also feel normal. All of this is okay.
You can talk with me about any feelings you have, but please make sure to come to me if you have strong feelings that bother you or won't go away. We’ll figure out what to do to help you feel better.

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Add Your Own Words:
Things to Say About Communication
It’s okay to ask me questions.
I may not always have the answer to every question you have, but I will do my best to find the answers.
It’s important that we talk about how you are feeling. You can tell me how you are feeling, even when you feel sad.
Sometimes it feels better when you share your feelings with someone else. It’s okay with me if you talk with someone else about how you are feeling.
As we deal with my cancer, you may have different feelings about it. I want you to know that you can talk to me about how you are feeling or what you are thinking. You can also talk to [name of relatives or friends] or to your teacher or [other name] if you want to.
It’s okay for you to say “I don’t feel like talking right now” when you feel that way. Even if you don’t have any questions now, you can come back to me later and ask me anything you want to know.
When you are feeling sad (or scared or worried), what do you do to cope with this feeling?

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Add Your Own Words:
Wrapping Up the Conversation
Can you tell me in your own words what we talked about today?
I told you some stuff about my cancer. I know it can be confusing. Tell me what you know so far.
The plan for the next [week, month, other time period] is to [plan for treatment if known; ways to meet child’s needs].

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Add Your Own Words:
Next: Review And Print Your Conversation Guide