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Children with Cancer > Patient Blogs > Dear Childhood Cancer Parent > Thoughts on managing needle anxiety

About this blog

My son, Justin, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on January 17, 2016. I have mostly muddled through parenting a childhood cancer patient. However, I would like to think I have learned a thing or two along the way, and am happy to share tips with other parents in the struggle.

  • Patient Name: Justin
  • Cancer Type: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
  • Age when diagnosed: 5

Thoughts on managing needle anxiety

9th May 2019

Let’s be honest, needles hurt!

During the course of treatment, there were many sources of pain caused by the cancer itself or side effects of chemotherapy. Most of this pain could be managed well with medicine. However, regular needle sticks and IV placements are just a fact of cancer treatment and, let’s be honest, needles hurt! There wasn’t any way around this, and there wasn’t much offered to help the situation.

For my son, IV placements were from the seventh layer of hell. We barely survived it when he had a port because, at least, that was usually a sure thing. But, after the port was removed, his nurses had to repeatedly stab his hands and wrists to find a “good” vein.

It was a living nightmare every single time until I asked, no, INSISTED that he be given a sedative. After his doctor agreed, Justin would take Ativan about an hour before the dreaded event. There was still some anxiety and pain, but the situation was drastically improved.

Making juicy veins

We also utilized “Buzzy”, which is a small device that is placed against the skin above the needle injection site. The idea is to position Buzzy between the brain and the pain. The device then vibrates and somehow “tricks” the brain by distracting it from the pain site. It’s a clever little invention, and although it does not alleviate pain altogether, it IS helpful. If your nurse or phlebotomist does not provide Buzzy, it can be purchased on Amazon for about £30. I bought one and it was well worth the investment.

Some other methods that helped Justin through the pain and anxiety of needle sticks and IV placements, were controlled breathing and listening to his favourite song. We also tried to keep him well-hydrated, which can help veins to better “give” blood. We called it “making juicy veins”.

Utilizing all of these techniques, I developed a plan with his nurse and child life specialist. Consistently implementing this plan was key.

Justin would be given a sedative about one hour before we were scheduled to arrive at the clinic. I would then pump him full of water, juice, chocolate milk or whatever he would drink. When it was time for the IV placement, I would play his favourite song and coach his breathing, the child life specialist would administer Buzzy and, of course, his nurse would focus on placing the IV.

It took a village.

Trust your instincts and never back down

Every child is different and each parent will have to determine what will work best for your child. But I hope I have made suggestions that you will find useful as you journey along this incredibly difficult road with your child.

Finally, try to stay composed and positive. I know. Easier said than done. But your child is watching you closely and will be able to stay calmer if you can keep your own anxiety under control. Or, at least, just fake it, like I did.

To all the parents in the struggle, trust your instincts and never back down when it comes to advocating for your child. Even if that means you look like a demanding lunatic. Who cares. Your child is worth it.

Hold fast to HOPE.

30.04.2019

This article was written by Katie Pierantozzi. You can follow Katie on Twitter, or read her blog for more.

Want to share your story? Please email stories@childrenwithcancer.org.uk

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