Father-to-father support: fathers of children with cancer share their experience

J Pediatr Oncol Nurs. 2002 May-Jun;19(3):97-103. doi: 10.1177/104345420201900304.


Fathers are important to the stability of the family and to the coping of mothers and their children when there is a child in treatment with cancer. The vulnerability they experience is stupefying and causes self-doubt, general worry, and frustration with the medical care they receive. Fathers' experiences are relatively unreported in the literature, and even less so, the experiences of fathers with children who have cancer. This research is based on two focus groups of five men each who spoke unabashedly for more than 2 hours about their grief, their struggle to come to terms with the diagnosis and the role strain, and role confusion they experienced as fathers and husbands. The findings could be described as reflecting the following themes: (1) impact on the provider role, (2) the emotional impact: I cry privately, (3) it's the fight of our lives, (4) tag-team parenting, (5) hypervigilance, (6) that place is scary!, and (7) what happens next--coping and moving on. The group format was powerful in terms of what these men were willing to share of themselves and their experience. These groups could be characterized as the coming together of strangers, bound by the common experience of "cancer," who actively supported each other and each other's process. Implications for holistic nursing practice are provided.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Care / psychology*
  • Cost of Illness
  • Fathers / psychology*
  • Grief
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Neoplasms / nursing
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Oncology Nursing* / methods
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Role
  • Self-Help Groups*
  • Social Support*