Emotional aspects of a stem cell transplant

Everyone brings their own unique experience and outlook to the stem cell transplant process.  However,  some common feelings and concerns seem to be shared by many patients and their families. Patients and families can expect to experience a full range of emotions. Often feelings of hopefulness are accompanied with feelings of anxiety about what to expect. Parents can become stressed about balancing hospital stays, home life and the need to continue to work.  Remember that your social worker is available to assist you in problem solving.

Siblings and donors

Brothers and sisters often feel left out and hurt, so it is important to set aside special time for them.  It helps to include siblings in planning, calling, and visiting the patient. Often, sibling donors feel unsure about donating.  They want to donate yet at the same time feel uncertain about the procedure.  Many sibling donors worry that their stem cells might not be “good enough” or that they may be harmed by the donation. It is important to emphasize to donors that if the patient gets sick, or the marrow does not engraft, that it is not their fault.  Donors also may feel they are not appreciated by their families and the staff.  It is important to show appropriate recognition and appreciation for donors.  The donor is doing the best that anyone can do for the patient.

Coping strategies

Planning ahead seems to help the patient and their family throughout the transplant process.  You want to talk with the SCT team about your own expectations, concerns and worries. 

  • Please tell us how you and your child learn best and what helps you during difficult times.
  • Tell us how much detail you would like to know regarding medical information and the doctors’ concerns.  Some people like to anticipate all possibilities while others like to wait to find out when changes occur.
  • It will be important to talk with the team about your child’s reactions to medicines, both physical and emotional, so we can know how to help.
  • Remember how your child normally handles boredom, fatigue, and frustration.  Help him or her to use these coping methods or to find new ones.  And remember that you will have similar feelings.
  • You might want to plan ahead and explore ways to help yourself relax while at the hospital.

Conserving your energy and resources can be challenging.  When friends and family want to help you, remind them that the hospital stay is only the beginning of the transplant process and that you may need additional help once you return home.