Talking to preschoolers about cancer.

Probably should write something after that nice introduction from Whymommy.  🙂  I’ve been thinking and thinking on what to write next.  The diagnosis post is easy.  What happens next is hard.  How do we talk to our kids about cancer?  I wrestled with this for ever.  I still wrestle with it. 

The 5 year old understands that I’m sick.  It was recommended to us to go ahead and use the word “cancer”.  I think it’s sort of like the Voldemort thing and using the word takes away some of its power and scariness.  The last thing you want as a parent is for your child to hear about cancer from someone else in scary, hushed tones.  Their little imaginations work overtime and imagine the worst.  So rather than calling it the disease-that-shall-not-be-named, we told her I had cancer; that part of my breast was making me sick and so we needed to take it out.  I’d had surgery before so that part didn’t seem to frighten her.  Then we talked about chemo medicine (and I’m careful to call it chemo medicine lest she be afraid that Tylenol is going to make her bald) and its various side effects.  I think the part that she struggles with the most is the length of the illness.  I’ve never been sick this long and she’s ready for me to be done.  (Amen to that.)  We don’t talk about death.  I’m not there yet.  We’ve been sort of talking to her on a need to know basis and we just aren’t there.  I don’t make promises, but for now the mortality issue is on the back burner.

Let’s face it.  The 2 year old is pretty easy.  Most of this goes right over his head.  The hardest part with him are my own physical limitations.  Like Judy I also felt like I lost my “pillow” for him to rest his head.  Since mine was only a single side mastectomy, my port went in on the other side, right in the place where J used to put his head.  At my last chemo, my port was actually flipped backwards, probably due to a little 2 year old help.  So what do we do?  We cuddle using pillows, and consistently use the words “gentle”, “be sweet” and “Let’s not drive the Matchbox cars over Mommy’s port”.

Of course the best part of having kids during cancer, is the joy they bring with them every day.  L said to me once, “Mama, I’m sorry you lost your boob.  I hope you find another one.”  Heh.  And J’s piece de resistance was right after we had shaved his head for the summer.  He crawled into my lap, rubbed his head, rubbed my head and said, “Mommy, I wike your hair.”


4 Responses to Talking to preschoolers about cancer.

  1. bcjenster says:

    “Mama, I’m sorry you lost your boob. I hope you find another one.” That is GOLD! Welcome!

  2. jillaldrich says:

    It sounds like you are doing an excellent job dealing with the enormously difficult job of deciding how to talk to your kids about your cancer. You should be proud of yourself.

  3. Welcome and what a great comment from your little one! Gosh they do keep you smiling and you know I think they give you extra determination to live, they push you when otherwise you might lie down and quit, it’s hard as all get out but they do keep you moving and give you a will to live.

  4. Sarah S. says:

    You always make me laugh! I am glad you are here with us. It has been really great for me to have a buddy to talk with while going through chemo. Thanks! 🙂

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