Explaining cancer and chemo to the kids

cancerTwo weeks ago, my friend revealed that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I immediately offered to help her out any way she needed. For the purposes of this blog, I will call her Pat since I am not sure she wants me to announce to everyone on the Internet that she has cancer. I know, I know, it isn’t very likely that you could recognize her from this, but it just feels better to give her an alias.

Originally, Pat was supposed to start chemotherapy right away, but it has turned into a hurry up and wait type situation. Now this is a friend whom my kids see several times a week as we walk with her kids (boy/girl twins who are the same age as Jase) to and from school. (We don’t see her daily as she is the bread-winner of the family and on most days, it is her husband walking with us and the kids though Pat joins us two mornings and one afternoon each week.)

Anyway, since the kids do see her several times a week, I felt it necessary to discuss with my kids some of the upcoming changes. I thought the discussion might be as hard as the death one that I had with Lexie back in November, but it proved to be easier than I thought.

I spoke to each kid separately. I didn’t really explain to either of them what cancer is but concentrated on the fact that the doctors would be treating Pat in order to make her better but that the treatment would be rough. We talked about her not feeling well and that the twins might be coming over to our house more often. (We had already had them over while she met with the oncologist.) And we talked about her losing her hair which according to her oncologist should happen within a week of her starting treatment.

The kids seemed fine with what I told them, and I encouraged them to ask me any questions they had – now or as time went on. Of course, I am really unsure what will happen. I have never known anyone who had Chemo. My dad has been diagnosed with cancer twice. He first had prostate cancer where he received radiation for about a year. His appearance never changed, and we don’t see him all that often for them to notice any of the other side effects like being tired.

This summer my dad was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The kids knew he had surgery since I went and sat with my mom at the hospital. But being kids, they really didn’t understand. All they knew is that their other grandparents came to play with them while I was away. In this instance, the only thing we told them was my dad’s voice would be scratchy and rough sounding from the surgery for a few months. Though they did comment on that when they say him, they never did ask any other questions.

So I guess we will see how things go with Pat. I am sure the questions will come, and we will answer them with straight-forward responses. And I am sure Lexie, who is still obsessed with death, will bring up that subject again too.

2 thoughts on “Explaining cancer and chemo to the kids

  1. My son is 19. I took him with me to one of my biopsies but not to my main surgery or radiation treatment because he was away at college. Watching me get an IV for the biopsy was traumatic enough for him and hit the message home that I was sick.

    It is a tightrope figuring out how much to tell your child and how much to keep to yourself. I’m keeping a journal that I am slowly turning into a blog. The blog is about a month behind where I am in real life but I think it’s important to talk about the lead up to the diagnosis, too. This helps explain the anger and the denial. Here is my link: http://cancerandcreativity.wordpress.com/

  2. […] knew exactly where my mind had gone. My friend Trish was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. She passed away this past August when the cancer spread to her […]

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