If you are reading this, it’s probably for a very personal reason that cancer has affected you or a loved one. It’s difficult to share your cancer diagnosis with your loved ones, but most difficult to talk to your kids about cancer. I’m sharing how we did it, some advice, and resources.
Stepson was seven-years-old when I was diagnosed. We used clinical words like cancer and chemo and talked about it like we would the weather. We were very open, honest, and straightforward with him, all while being age (and gender) appropriate. What we did not share with him… when I had surgery, we told him that it was on my side (not my breast). And “technically”, that is where my stitches are. We said that cancer was not contagious, it was like a broken arm. We explained that chemo would kill good cells (like my hair) along with the bad cells and the cancer.
We told him that I would lose my hair and be very sick and tired for a while. He could not have been kinder and sat by my side watching SpongeBob cartoons together with the promise that they would make me feel better. I wore silly pink and green wigs to keep him (and me) laughing. And tried to keep life as “normal” as possible for him.
Because we are a blended family, I also had many conversations with his mother to keep her informed of what was going on if he had any questions to ask her that he wasn’t comfortable asking me – she had answers or was at least comfortable asking me for answers. We also let his teacher know so that if he acted out or his behavior changed she would know why and we could address it.
I went into his classroom at one point during treatment and wore my pink wig. The conversation went something like this:
Girl in class: “Your mom has pink hair. That’s so cool!”
Stepson: “My STEPmom has a pink WIG. She has cancer so she has to wear a pink wig.”
Girl in class: “That’s so cool. I wish I had a pink wig. I love pink.”
It wasn’t my place to explain cancer to another child who I don’t know. But it reminded me of how innocent children are. They process what we give them – verbally, emotionally, physically, and subconsciously.
We are very blessed to have such a great kid who is laid back and easy going and was a true champion when I had cancer.
Everyone’s cancer experience is unique, the same as each child is unique. You know your children better than anyone else, and the conversation needs to be custom tailored to their age and temperaments.
My Mommy Has Cancer was written as a calling to help other families with this situation.
This children’s book was written from a child’s perspective to talk to another child about cancer. It’s age appropriate for five to ten-year-old children. Parents are encouraged to read through the book first, and then read the book to or with your child and have an open discussion that is best for your family’s situation. For more information about this book, please click HERE.
Stepson is now a teenager. I’ve asked him what he remembers about me having cancer. It was the pink wig and not much else. BUT… there have been times when new friends have come over to the house. I’ll feed them a healthy snack and Stepson’s commentary is, “Stepmom had cancer so we eat healthy so she doesn’t get sick again.”
I’m not going to give him the takeaways I think he should have. I’m extremely grateful that he is a resilient kid and sees me walking the walk.
Your child is going to be ok.
Are you Inspired?
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Love and extra big hugs from your warrior sister,HERE.