My grandchild has cancer

As a grandparent, you will need to walk a fine line between doing as much as you can to help your grandchild and their parents, and giving the family space. Dealing with your own emotions while being there for the family is tough. But don't underestimate the difference you can make - no matter how close or far you live. Grandparents can be the hidden superheros when it comes to childhood cancer.

How you might be feeling

Feeling angry, devastated, shocked and a deep sense of injustice is very normal after a diagnosis. After all, your grandchild is innocent and they have done nothing to deserve or cause this. On top of this, you will no doubt be distraught on behalf of your son, daughter or stepchild.

You may feel frustrated that you’re not in a position to access the same level of information as the immediate family, and will want to be kept in the loop without feeling that you’re inconveniencing anyone. If you live far away or need support yourself, you could feel helpless. It’s also common to feel afraid and worry about what’s ahead.

Common questions

Where will my grandchild be treated?

This will depend on how old they are. If your grandchild is under 18 years old, they will be treated in a specialist treatment centre which may be far away from the family home. This means they will need to travel for treatment. They might stay in hospital for long periods of time, but this will depend on their personal treatment plan. Their consultant will work out what is best for them. If your grandchild is 18 or over, they may still be treated in a specialist centre, or they might receive care from their local hospital.

Read more about treatment centres for young people and what to expect from the NHS

How will cancer affect my grandchild’s life?

There’s no doubt that cancer causes a lot of disruption to normal life. Families often talk about finding their ‘new normal’ and there will be lots of help available to give them as much consistency as possible.

For teenagers and young adults, it can often be harder as they may have been getting their first taste of independence before their diagnosis. Suddenly having to put college, work or social life on hold can be demoralising, especially while they watch their peers carry on with their normal lives.

Read more about the impact on your grandchild's life

How will treatment affect my grandchild physically?

The side effects of treatment can vary. Feeling tired and sick is common, but the team at the hospital will be able to give your grandchild or their parents good advice on how to manage any symptoms.

Read more about the side effects of cancer

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