Monday, May 30, 2011

Telling the Children

I have two children, a girl who is 9 (almost 10) and a boy who just turned 7.  Telling them that I have cancer was the hardest part.  Back long long ago (in January of this year) when I had renal cancer, that seemed easier.  Renal cancer Stage I is "cured" through surgery.  They just lopped off part of a kidney and I was good to go (slowly).  None of that pesky radiation or chemo to worry about - all body hair intact.  All I had to tell them was that Mommy was having surgery and Mommy would need help for a while (a long while as it turned out...but still).  Day by day I got a little better.  It was a long 2 months of recovery but then everything was fine and life went on without my kids really having to face cancer on a daily basis.

But, now - I have breast cancer. Things are much more "complicated."  This involves so much more and it "feels" more serious.  It never occurred to me to NOT tell them, that's just how our family works.  We talk about pretty much everything and my kids see my husband and I naked on a daily basis (sorry to those who know me for THAT visual!).  We don't think the body is something to hide or be ashamed about and we talk about it.

My son takes things pretty much in stride.  He's not a worrier.  He's easy-going and happy-go-lucky.  He is more analytical, more into the mechanics of HOW things work as far as medical things go.  When he came to see me in the hospital after renal surgery (my daughter was sick and couldn't come), he wanted to SEE all the tubes and WHERE they went and WHAT they did and he analyzed the whole scene.  He asked a million questions and was fascinated by the machines and their purpose.  When he gets shots at the doctor's office, he WATCHES and says, "Ohh, cool!"  I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up a doctor - and Goodness knows *I* need a doctor in the family!!!  Think of the money I'd save on co-pays!  That's assuming he'd give his ol' Mom a discount!

This medical curiosity of my 7 year old does come at a "price" though.  Still sore from the biopsy (oh yes, even a week later!), I mentioned at Applebees something about it being sore when he knocked up against me.  (Because if you've ever sat in a restaurant booth with a 7 year old, you know it's like trying to arm wrestle with an octopus - limbs everywhere!)  That is when he demanded to see it!  Right then and there!  I told him that Applebees wasn't the appropriate place to be whipping out the boobage (only I said it all like smart and stuff - in proper Mom words).  He was undeterred and tried to lift my shirt up on his own.  I'm pretty sure Applebees frowns on that sort of thing - so I had to fight off the octopus all on my own.  I won.  But, being the highly gifted child he is (and I'm not just saying that because I'm his mother), he doesn't forget ANYTHING.  So, at home later that night, he remembered that he wanted to see it.  Then he spent a good several minutes analyzing the horror scene of my boob and asking about all the holes and what they did and where and how they knew what to do and how they did it and why and pressing different places and saying, "Does it hurt HERE?!"  Then he examined his own little breast before being on his merry way.

My daughter, though, she's a different animal.  Very gifted in her own right, she's introspective and a worrier.  She takes everything to heart and is sensitive.  She and I are very close.  The news that I have breast cancer has hit her particularly hard.  She's been near tears many times in the past several days and she's asking a lot of questions.  She is complaining that she can't sleep and that her stomach hurts.  She's worried that I'll lose my hair, that I won't be fun anymore, that I'll be too sick to spend time with her, that I'll be too sore to cuddle.  She wants to start her own blog to talk about her feelings!  :)  I told her I 'd set her up but if she's funnier than me, I'm disowning her.  She's willing to take that risk.

No 9 year old should have the weight of the world on them.  "Mom, aren't you too YOUNG to have breast cancer?  Isn't that what old ladies get?!" she asks frustrated.  Yes, I'm too young - but young is good in some ways.  Young means I'm stronger (though wimpy in my own special ways to be sure) to fight this.  Younger means I really have a lot to live for and a lot to fight for.

It also means that I have two special children to come home to.  I just wouldn't recommend sitting next to either of them in a restaurant.  You've been warned.

People Outside My Family Who've Seen My Boob = 9
Boob Count = 24


  1. Oh Laura, I am so glad that you have told your children! Allowing them to ask questions and express their feelings is something that is so valuable. If your daughter wants to talk to another daughter who's mommy had BC, let her contact me. While I enjoy the technical side of it like your son too, I take things to heart and can be quite emotional about the feelings side of things like your daughter.

    Stay strong and enjoy the MRI today!

  2. Laura, I love that you started a blog (or maybe you've had it and I'm just now discovering it!) What great insight on telling your children-even though it's hard, I'm sure it's best to be up front with them. You are such an inspiration, I am now looking to you for my daily dose of humor! Thinking of you...

  3. I think that's got to be one of the toughest parts of it.... how to deal with it when it comes to the kids. It sounds like you and yours did it "right"...whatever that is. Sending you the strength and wisdom to continue that trend throughout your treatment.