Childhood cancer

Advice to Adults With Cancer from a 5 year old


Here’s a light-hearted look at cancer from the point of view of my son Elliot, who was only 4 and a half when diagnosed. I know many of the adults I am in touch with who have cancer, or who are helping a person with cancer through this journey, will relate!

Advice to adults with cancer from a 5 year old

1. It is perfectly acceptable to have a complete tantrum and throw your shoes around just before leaving for the hospital.
2. You always deserve a present after chemo.
3. If you feel like showing more respect and politeness to the hospital clown than your oncologist, that’s ok.
4. If you manage to grab the syringe of medicine from the nurse, it’s their loss and you are then allowed to squirt its’ entire content around the room.
5. You are allowed to complain loudly about any smells like perfume, but you are also allowed to fart freely whenever and wherever you want.
6. Anyone who says “this one tastes like syrup” better be not be lying or they can expect to catch some spit.
7. You are allowed to worry about life and death, but only to the same extent that you worry about whether Santa Claus will be able enter your home if you don’t have a chimney.
8. Speaking of worry, you are not allowed to worry about anything that is not going to happen today or tomorrow.
9. Any bad thing that happened in the past should be quickly erased from your mind using ice cream.
10. It’s ok to throw up directly on your caregiver instead of into the bucket they are holding. It will create warm and funny memories for them once this is all over.
11. Good friends may stare when they first see you without any hair, but they are quickly more interested in all your new toys. So make sure you have lots of new toys around all the time.
12. It is the right thing to do to jump off the examining table if the doctor’s hands are too cold.
13. A popsicle for breakfast is a good idea and goes well with bacon.
14. If someone rubs your bald head and says you’re cute you should stare at them in complete boredom until they stop.
15. Always believe that scars are badges of courage and make you look like a pirate or a superhero.
16. Jumping on the bed is a perfectly acceptable form of exercise.
17. Someone should always be available to carry you if you don’t feel like walking anymore and they will be grateful if you look at them lovingly and say “You’re my slave.”
18. It’s a good idea to frequently press the little button next to the bed that makes the nurse come running, because she might be lonely and bored, and enjoys picking your crayon up from the floor.
19. The only part of hospital food you should eat is the desert. The rest is not really food anyway.
20. Make having fun your priority, all the time, no matter where you are or what’s going to happen next.

11 thoughts on “Advice to Adults With Cancer from a 5 year old”

  1. You are so good at putting Elliot’s childhood above his Cancer. He is the same little boy as before, fighting a diagnosis, but with humor and Grace.

  2. You definitely should write a book, Nic; you have an incredible talent to capture in words overwhelming emotions and life changing experiences that brings the reader to tears and then find ways to make light of the situation in the next breath and have us smiling and laughing…this is a gift and I’m glad you’ve decided to share it with the world!!

    1. Hi Catherine! Thanks! Elliot is a great kid although this whole thing has sure brought out his stubborn side! Only 4 more rounds of chemo to go at least.

  3. I love the list and totally agree! Children are so resilient, we have so much to learn from their innocence, bravery and happiness.

  4. I read this one last night and just loved it. I know, because I was still thinking on it when I woke up this morning (and with chemo brain I don’t remember much of anything from one moment to the next). I was envisioning you carrying Super Elliot off to bed and him uttering those words “you are my slave” very matter of fact like and I just laughed. You’re a great writer Nicole. I’m looking forward to catching up on the rest of your blogs :-).

    1. Hi Ali, I’m so glad you liked that one! It really reflects everything about Elliot and how he has handled this. Speaking of chemo brain, do you think caregivers can get it by being so close to the chemo during treatment? Because I often think I’ve got it! Ok probably not a very good excuse for my forgetfulness 😉

  5. I just read your story, “The Waiting Room”. in the CURE magazine. How true that kids can bring out the best in people. They can make us smile and feel better for the moment, even when we are going through rough times. Your story reminds me of when I went through radiation 2 years ago. Yes, you see the same people every day for 6 weeks and make friends or can lighten someones day. In the waiting room there was a huge fish tank with beautiful fish. A young boy was amazed looking at the fish. His sweet voice and delightful ohhs while looking at the fish brightened my day. How I wish we could all be like the little children…

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