My kids and I were chatting the other day and I mentioned bumping into an old work colleague during the week. The oldest asked did they remember me and I just commented that I’m probably the same except for my hair colour. They both nodded their heads in agreement (I went from being a brunette all my life to blonde after my hair grew back – long story for another day!) .
The youngest asked out of the blue why exactly did I wear a wig!!.
Surprised I replied “Do you not remember ? When I had cancer? I needed treatment called chemotherapy and my hair fell out?”
Youngest: “Cancer?.. Like as in bad cancer?”
Me: “There is no good or bad cancer. It is just that the treatment worked for me. I am one of the lucky ones. Did you not know?”
The oldest then piped up. ” I was like that too Mammy.” (I do remember a similar conversation a couple of years ago.) “I didn’t really know what cancer was when you were sick but I know now.”
This conversation kinda floored me a bit. The worst part of being diagnosed with cancer was having to tell my children. I was very conscious of being open and honest with the them all the time through treatment, I read a lot about helping children deal with cancer in the family and explained everything to them that was appropriate for their ages which were seven and five years old. My seven year old did ask a lot about me dying at the time and that is now forgotten. The five year old was complaining of stomach pains all that year and I can attribute that to anxiety as they settled the following year. I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with all the repressed memories they probably have! Time will tell but for now as far as they are concerned that is all in the past, they know I am lucky and that is all they need right now. I tell them every time I am going for an appointment with my Oncologist and that is now normal for them. They have reclaimed their childhood in their own way. All I can do is listen and watch for any cues if and when they want or need help. I think they are ok…I hope they are ok….Unchartered territory for all of us. I wish that they will never have to experience cancer in our family again.
Below are some resources that may help you if you are wondering how to tell your children.