Sunday, February 20, 2011
When I was diagnosed with cancer, my children were 12 and 22, respectively.
I know, I know, what can I say? My oldest put me through a 48 hour labor, it took me a while to want to try again.
Anyway, at the time of my diagnosis, my oldest was out of the house and on his own (yes, young moms, they do leave and yes, it's hard - dealing with that could be a blog on its own, and honey, if you are reading this, you can come back any time).
My youngest was in middle school and at that point, they are very peer-centered. Telling them I had cancer was easy. Both were old enough to understand, and not only that, both knew enough so that the world "cancer" didn't automatically bring up the idea of death. I told them I'd have to do chemo, asked my oldest for help with his brother (picking him up after school) and told my youngest I'd be tired and bald but would live through it. They both took it in stride and did a great job of making life easy on me, as of course, did my husband. My oldest did pick up his brother every day during the times when I couldn't drive or had a doctor's appointment - my youngest son continued to get straight As in a rigorous International Baccalaureate program and participated in many after-school competitions and events - my illness didn't phase him, as I had intended.
Sometimes, I'm not sure he even noticed.
Which made me happy, by the way. I did not want to burden them with my illness and I made it very clear that this was a small bump in the road and nothing to worry about. I believe that kids, even older ones, take the lead from the parents reaction. Staying calm was key. I always believed I'd be a "survivor" (gag) and lived that way through treatment.
In being a part of the cancer community, I of course have met mothers of children much younger than mine. I have always felt bad for them - it's one thing to tell a very bright, independent 12 year old that mom has cancer and quite another to tell a needy 3 or 5 year old. In all cases though, it's necessary to model a good outlook for the children's sake, and I wondered how the parents of younger children manage?
I came across a book for parents of young children, and thought it was a great idea. I asked for a copy and the author, Sue Glader, generously sent me one. The book is called "Nowhere Hair" and is about a little girl searching for her mother's hair. She then asks outright where it went. Mom explains she lost it because of medicine for cancer but is reassured that she is still loved - which is really what every child wants to know. This book is fantastic for explaining cancer in a way that a young child can understand and relate to, and also shows the reality (baldness, tiredness) along with the truth, love and acceptance. The illustrations are charming, the story is captivating and, I believe, it is the perfect book to explain what is about to happen to a younger child. Grandmothers will also be able to use this to explain to their grandchildren why they are sick.
This book fullfills a need that, to my knowledge, has been unmet in Cancer World so I'm hoping that Sue will do well. Hospitals and oncologist's offices should buy this book and keep copies in their waiting rooms.
Nowhere Hair can be purchased at Amazon, or you can win a copy from me! Leave a comment detailing your fears about telling your children, or your experience doing so, and I will choose one by Friday, February 25th.
Posted by Ann aka ButDoctorIHatePink at 12:12 PM