(cross posted from Coffee and Chemo)
This is what I felt two weeks ago, when I first learned about my brain mets.
I was devastated.
My first thought, beyond my own anguish, was how to tell my mom.
(fast forward: My parents were really terrific when I told them. Though they were clearly distraught by the news, they did not freak out. They asked intelligent questions, understood that I did not have all the answers, and just continued to shower me with love and encouragement.)
It was not until one of the nurses asked me about it, that I realized I would have to tell my kids.
In those first few moments, I did not know whether to tell them right away or not. We did not have much information and we honestly would not be able to answer many questions. Yet I did not now how I could not tell my kids right away. I could not stop crying; I would have to explain why. Even if I could stop crying, my kids are smart and sensitive, they would figure out that something is wrong.
I also realized that I could not talk, or write, about any of this until they knew. It would be unfair to tell other people before them. Not only do they have the right to know what is going on, but I do not want them to have to deal with other people’s reactions from a position where the other person knows what is going on and they don’t.
I would basically have little or no support until the kids knew. That seemed unfair as well. My decision about when to tell the kids should be about them, not about me. On the other hand, this news was so big, how could I just pretend everything was “normal.”
I consulted with the social worker. As she spoke with us, I realized that I felt quite strongly about telling the kids before they suspected anything was wrong.
Maybe if I found out during the week, life would be so busy that I could put it off telling them for a few days, until we had more information and more answers. But the next day was Shabbat, when we spend so much intense time together. The kids would pick up on the non-verbal stuff, even if Moshe and I were careful not to discuss anything around them.
Unacceptable. I never want my kids to feel like we are hiding things from them. Knowing that we are completely open and upfront with them gives them the confidence to take what we tell them at face value and not be troubled by infinite doubts and fears.
On the way home, Moshe and I discussed this further. Moshe suggested playing things by ear. We did not have to decide right now. We could wait a bit and see how things go.
That took a lot of pressure off. We had time. Time to absorb the news ourselves and time to figure out how to frame the news to our kids. No one would be home for several hours.
Moshe wondered if he should stay home with me. He had a major deadline at work, so I insisted that he go in to work. I would be fine.
I called a close friend, who I knew would be a good listener. She was not home.
I called another close friend. It was good to talk with her.
Then, I was alone. Alone with this aweful news.
Later, the first friend called back. When she heard the news, she offered to come right over. She has five small kids and it is often challenging for her to get out but, at that moment, she could come. I decided to stop stuggling to keep it all together — “Yes,” I accepted her offer, “please come.”
My friend was still over when my youngest daughter came home. My daughter had some things to do for school (remember, this was two weeks ago), so she went into the computer room to work. I told her that I would be in my room, with my friend. We spoke for an hour or so. Though I still felt overwhelmed and extremely frightened, I also felt calmer and ready to face the world. More importantly, I felt ready to face my kids.
That evening, our home was filled with more than the usual chaos. I had spent the day in turmoil. Moshe spent the day dealing with all the beaurocracy of my new diagnosis. My eldest spent the day at the beach with friends of hers from school and came home exhausted and full of energy at the same time, as only teenagers can be! My son spent the afternoon at school, preparing for their end-of-the-year play (more on that another time). And my youngest finally finished the project that she had to turn in to her teacher. Everyone wanted my attention!
Did I mention I had tickets to a play that night?
OK, there was no way I could listen to all my kids, share what I had to share, help them absorb it and leave to see a play. Something had to go. I decided I could wait to share my news.
So, I listened as everyone clamored for attention, loving the healthy chaos of it all.
Then I pulled myself together, put a smile on my face, and went out to have a good time.