Friday, 4 July 2014

3 July: Telling the Children

"When are we going to see Granny and Granddad?" asked my 8 year old daughter.

"Well..." I hesitated, unsure how to answer.  

"We're not going, are we?"  And she burst into tears.  It turns out that she overheard me telling a friend that we are not going to be able to go to visit the grandparents next week as planned because I will have to go to the hospital for a battery of tests.  We might not be able to take our holiday in Portugal later this summer either...depending on the chemotherapy.

It's not easy explaining to an 8 year old why Fate has just totally screwed up her summer.

So I took a breath and plunged into The Conversation.

I had already told the kids that I had to go to the hospital to get something removed, but I had carefully avoided using the words 'cancer' or 'death'.  But Suzie, our cancer nurse, gently told us that we needed to be more open.  They will hear people using the word 'cancer', she warned us.  They might hear about people who died of cancer.  They will fear that you are hiding something from them.  So they needed to hear that I have cancer and I will not die.

So there I was, walking back home from a playdate through the park, my daughter sobbing because she can't go and see her grandparents, the sky blue and glorious and life feeling rich and much too good to lose.  I gulped back a sob and bravely told her I had cancer but I wasn't going to die.

"But the summer will be sooo boring!" she wailed.  

There's nothing like an eight-year-old to put things in perspective.

My deep-and-meaningful went better with my son later in the day.  At eleven, he can take it all in better.  Besides, I softened him up with an ice cream first.  Then I bribed my daughter with promises of visits to theme parks and anywhere else she can think of and everyone cheered up a bit.

Now I just have to break it to my elderly parents that I'm not coming next week because I have breast cancer.  I have the nasty feeling that an ice cream just isn't going to help on this one.

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