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A Piece of My Mind
August 22/29, 2012


Author Affiliations

A Piece of My Mind Section Editor: Roxanne K. Young, Associate Senior Editor.

Author Affiliation: Department of Humanities, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania (

JAMA. 2012;308(8):775-776. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.9425

For many years I’ve worked with cancer patients and their families. When parents of younger children develop cancer, inevitable questions focus on the children. What should we tell them? How can we help them even as we don't know how to help ourselves?

We all have algorithms in our heads, abbreviated formulas for dealing with common situations. Be transparent, I’ve always said. Be developmentally appropriate. Children are sponges, they’ll pick up on what's happening. Better they understand that a parent has an illness. Make things predictable for them. Given them attention, structure, love.

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