Today, I had a meeting with YDs teacher and the Principal of the Special School along with the key house staff of YDs residential house to sort out what we were all telling her and so that we werent’t contradicting each other and getting her confused or giving her stress. At the moment she knows that I have a bad bug in my breast that is making it very sore. We are also telling her that I need very strong medicine for it that will make my hair fall out and that I will be sick until after Christmas. We are not going to mention cancer at the moment as we feel that she will connect that with her grandma dying of cancer, and we dont want to put tha tstress on her unless we have to. If she makes that connection herself between my hair falling out and cancer then we will be honest and say that that is what the bug is. But then we will follow it up with positive examples of people who have had cancer and survived. We will prepare her for the removal of my breast closer to the time – possibly by saying that the bad bug or cancer (depending on how she knows of it by then) has to get cut out because the medicine didnt fix all of it. She will only find out how life threatening this is if it becomes terminal and only if it is definitely terminal, and then we will prepare her for that eventuality as well. there are actually a lot of good resource books for kids to explain all this so we may use some of those resources.
Last night we told YD that I had cancer. She did make the connection with Grandma dying of cancer but we were honest and said that when they found Grandma’s cancer it was all over her body and it was too late to give her medicine to make her better. We explained that mine was found soon enough and with medicine and surgery I will get better. We showed her a couple of picture books that are very good explanations of families dealing with the Mum having breast cancer – that the mum loses her hair and feels sick but the hair grows back and Mum gets better. I have got them on loan from the public library and the Cancer Society but have ordered a couple of them over the internet. One’s coming from America so it might be a few weeks or more but the other should be here within a few days. When they come YD will be able to have them at her house and at school to help her talk to her housemates/staff about it. We decided to tell her that I had cancer for several reasons – so that I didn’t have to hide things when she visited us at home, so that I didn’t need to watch my words so carefully around her, so that if someone saw me with no hair and said that I had cancer she would already know and we would have controlled the way she was told to alleviate worry. She seemed to understand things pretty well but now we will just keep reinforcing that the medicine etc is going to make me get better. She now realises that I am sicker than she thought but that’s the thing that both the books we have got emphasised is that when you get cancer , you don’t necessarily look sick. I think we have done the right thing in telling her as we have always tried to tell her the truth about things and explain things to a level she can understand and I think she would have picked up on that there were things we were hiding from her.