Student with cancer : emotional challenges



Planning for the student’s return to class may cause you to address your feelings about life threatening illness. You might find it helpful to share your concerns with a doctor, social worker or nurse from the student’s treatment centre. Your own school may have a school nurse, student counsellor or a visiting Public Health nurse, who can provide assistance. There may also be colleagues who have experiences they can share with you.

No matter how prepared you are, having a student with cancer in the class can be emotionally demanding and time consuming.

There may be times when you feel unequal to the task or depressed about your student’s situation. It may help to know that health professionals who work with young patients are also vulnerable to these emotions and rely on each other and outside sources for support.

Remember that you are part of a team which includes parents, treatment centre staff, other medical personnel and other school staff members. Whether working through your own feelings, looking for advice, or sharing loss, support and guidance should be available from the other members of the team.


When talking with parents, usually a direct approach is best. Most parents want teachers to ask about their child and the disease and are willing to supply information.

If they are angry or sad (even to the point of tears), remember these feelings are not necessarily caused by, nor directed to you.

If parents are depressed, hostile, or overly anxious, a united approach by school and health professionals can be reassuring to parents which in turn will help encourage the young person’s attendance at school.

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