When the Diagnosis is Cancer and the Question is, “How do I tell my children?”

When The Call Came

When the call came in six years ago today, Friday, April l, 2005 and the message was, “I’m sorry, you have breast cancer,” one of my first thoughts was, “How do I tell my children?  What do I tell my children?”

The reality for my children, was, in the previous five years, they witnessed cancer diagnoses and within a year, the deaths of six parents with whom whose children they attended church, school and summer camp.

So my sitting down and telling them “I have cancer,” was in their minds a death sentence.

The youngest of my five children, who was 11 at the time, looked at me and asked, “Mom, are you going to die?”

When I assured him, I, like everyone will die at some time, but I thought it highly unlikely it would be from this cancer, he quipped, “Well, then, can I go down the street and play at the Bajorek’s?”

At the time, I could not find any resources or books, which seemed appropriate for my children.

Until a couple of weeks ago when I met Maryann Makekau, at The Annie Appleseed Conference in Florida, www.annieappleseedproject.org author of a series of books for children experiencing adults with cancer in their lives, www.thelittlepinkbooks.com.

Maryann has so many touching stories to share.  I asked her if she would consider writing a monthly guest blog to our site.

Today, the sixth anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, the very day six years ago when I was faced with my telling my children, seems a fitting day for Maryann to begin.

“Through a Child’s Eyes”

Breast cancer isn’t an individual illness.  From the moment a woman is diagnosed, cancer ripples into her loved ones lives—even before she is ready to share such distressing news.  The words “you have breast cancer” meet with deafening silence.  Whether delivered by phone or during an office visit, it can be difficult to later recall what was said.  Grief enters the door the very moment the word “cancer” is delivered.

Coping with change, loss, uncertainty, confusion, anger and more are inherent in the grief process.  We may not choose what trials we go through, but we do choose how we go through them.  As a mother, your choice affects yourself and your children.  Your loved ones must make the journey too.  Cancer evokes clashing emotions and brings previous losses to the forefront.  Sharing with your children is a necessary yet frightening task, making honest and gentle conversations essential.  They equip everyone to be a part of the journey of helping, sharing and healing—each in their own way.

There may be temptation to keep cancer a secret in an effort to “protect” the children.    Children experience the same emotions as adults and they’re incredibly perceptive.  Not telling children what’s wrong doesn’t hide the fact that something is wrong.  Though they may not verbally express their feelings, their minds are still easily gripped by grief, confusion and uncertainty.  Unspoken fears and irrational thoughts can cause unfathomable havoc inside families.  Mom is “mom,” no matter how old you are; concerns about her touch the child inside all of us.  Let that heart-connection guide you in sharing with your children; open the door even to the most difficult topics, including cancer.

Share through a child’s eyes, share some whimsical hope—because hope matters above all else

Maryann Makekau, Author & Inspirational Speaker

Copyright 2011


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