My girls had already known that I needed surgery on my breasts. We sat down and told them that I had some lumps that hurt and they needed to come out. At this point it was a routine surgery. So far as we knew they were just cysts. During my surgery my Doctor found a tumor. We did not find out it was cancer until three or four days after my surgery. I had recovered at home and was just in for a check up. After the devastating news my doctor gave us we cried and talked about what we were going to tell the kids. They were at school when we got home so we had a little time to figure out what we would say. A good friend came over knowing there might be some bad news. She knew as soon as she walked in the door. From that point on we decided to not share my diagnosis with anyone yet. We needed to tell my parents and family but we did not want everyone to know until we could sit down with the kids. I wanted to protect them from my diagnosis but I also knew if I did not tell them right away they might over hear it and that was not the way I wanted it to go down. The kids came home from school that day and they were so happy. I could not bring myself to tell them. We would give them just one more day and then we would tell them.
We chose to tell the girls in little bits and pieces. First we told them that I needed another surgery because of the cysts I had taken out before. They were OK with that and did not ask any questions. At that point I did not know what our surgery plan was and I had not yet met with my doctor at the breast center. We wanted to be sure of all the facts and get all our information in line before we told them everything. I met with my surgeon and had an ultra sound and chest x-ray, and on that same day had three needle biopsies. My pathology reports came back showing three more tumors in my left breast. We knew for sure by then that I needed a mastectomy. We had scheduled the surgery and then needed to talk to the girls.
I chose to do this in a very informal way. One on one with my older girls. I thought by telling them privately that it would be easier answering their questions and talking to them about all aspects of my diagnosis. My 11 year old was first. I did not really have a plan I just winged it. I was up in her room with her putting laundry away or something like that. I told her I needed to have more surgery. She immediately asked me “Do you have cancer?” I told her that I did and that they were gong to take it out right away so that it did not spread. I assured her that they had caught it early and that I was really lucky that they found it when they did. She asked me if they were going to chop off my breast. I laughed and told her that they would take all my tissue out but would put an implant back in right away. She smiled and asked me if they were going to be really big like all those woman who get fake boobs. I told her they were going to be about the same size as my old ones were but just perkier. She thought it was good that they wouldn’t be too big because I would fall over because I am really short. The last question she asked me was the hardest. She asked me If I was going to die. I cried then because it broke my heart. No child should have to ask their parent that question! I told her that they were going to give me chemotherapy and that my hair was going to fall out but because they caught it in time I was not going to die. She told me that she would still love me even though I would be bald. it made me laugh.
That same evening I was hanging out in my older daughters room talking and just hanging out. I told her just like I did with my other daughter that I needed another surgery. She just said OK and asked me if I had to stay in the hospital. I told her I did have to because it was a more complicated surgery. She did not ask me any questions she made it a little harder on me. I told her that they found cancer in my breast and that they wanted to take all my tissue out to make sure they got it all. She started to cry and we cried and hugged for a long time. At this point she started asking questions. She asked me if they were going to take my breast off. I told her like I told her sister that I would have implants and she smiled and said that they would be really perky. I told her about chemo and everything we needed to do to make my cancer go away and she was OK with all of it.
With my 5 year old I just told her about my surgery and that I had to spend the night at the hospital. I did not tell her right away about my cancer. I did not think she would understand. I just talked to her a little at a time. She knows now about my cancer and has adjusted well to the situation. I still do not think she totally understands it.
All of my family and friends comment on how well my kids are doing with all this. We try to keep it upbeat and we joke a lot about it. They make up little songs about my bald head. My five year old is obsessed with kissing my head. We have tried to keep everything as normal as possible at home. I kept their routine the same as it was before my diagnosis and surgery. They help out a lot and thankfully I have not been really sick with my chemo. I continue to cook, shop and do car pools like I did before. For now they are happy and not worrying too much about my cancer. My hope is that lasts for a long time.