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Parenting with Cancer

Posts: 12
Joined: Dec 2010

Do you tell your children? My oldest son is 5 and I don't really think he would understand..I've kind of just been avoiding the subject around him and kinda sneaking around his back about the cancer... I don't really feel like it would be beneficial to tell him a bunch of things he won't understand. I have some people telling me that I NEED to tell him ( im going into the hospital for surgery Jan 5th and family will be taking care of my children while i'm in) I pretty much just told him that I have to have an operation, but i'm avoiding the "cancer" word at all costs...Anyone else have any experience with this?

Posts: 1
Joined: Dec 2010

Last year when I was diagnosed with breast cancer my daughter was only 5 months old. I'm sure she knew something was up, but to her she didn't know it wasn't normal for her Mommy to have a bald head. This year with my leukemia diagnosis she is over 2 years old so she has some questions. I was recently hospitalized and she did surprisingly well. She had questions about the IV tubing which we just explained was medicine. We finally decided to tell her that I did have cancer and as part of that treatment my hair came out, she wasn't too interested in the long explanation just was more fascinated with my bald head. My husband shaved his head too so right now I guess it doesn't seem to out of the usual to her.

I found a website that was very helpful to me in deciding what to tell my daughter. It answers many questions regarding that come up when you are a parent with cancer and has ways to talk to your kids according to their age regarding cancer it is:


It is by the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Hope this helps. Good luck.

LilySunshine's picture
Posts: 16
Joined: Dec 2010

There was an episode of The Stupid Cancer Show about parenting with cancer a few months ago. I recommend downloading it from Itunes. There might be some info in there you would find beneficial. Good luck!! Lily

Posts: 11
Joined: Dec 2010

My daughter was 11 months when I was diagnosed so obviously there wasn't much at the time that could be said to her...just that Daddy was sick and needed to go to the hospital so the doctors could make him better. With a 5 year old, it's a little more difficult of a question. Now that my daughter is 2 1/2 she often has questions about my various scars from surgeries and the explanation is the same...Daddy was sick and the doctors had to make those scars to make him better. I think that it's something that will be an individual decision because all kids are different in their comprehension. One thing is for sure, if you don't tell them straight out, they'll be asking questions to find out so at least know what you want to tell them when they ask. I'm sorry...I know this is less than helpful but I hope that discussing it with your little one goes well.

LilySunshine's picture
Posts: 16
Joined: Dec 2010

yeah. My four year old niece questioned why I didn't have any hair and now she tells my brother she's glad I'm bald because not having hair is making me better. lol

Heatherbelle's picture
Posts: 1226
Joined: Jun 2010

My daughters were 9 and 1 1/2 years when I was diagnosed with breast cancer last June. Of course the baby didn't know, but I was honest & open with my 9 yr old from the get go. We got books from the library, she did some research online to find out info, and she went to some doctor's appointments with me. The important thing was I didn't let her see me upset about it, otherwise that would have upset her. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer 2 months after I was (we have no other history in our family), and after having both her mom AND her grandma diagnosed, my 9 yr old started asking me if she & her sister would get cancer when they grew up, or if they could get breast cancer while they're kids. I took her to talk to a counselor at my cancer center a few times & that really helped her alot. She got clingy with me during treatment, I was dx in summer but when she first started school again in late August, she would call me from school almost every day, and tried to stay home alot, i think mainly being worried about her mom. Best of luck to you :)

ekdennie's picture
Posts: 236
Joined: Aug 2010

I was diagnosed with cancer June 30, 2010. My kids were 4, 2, and 4 months old at the time. they could tell something was up. my family was around a lot more, I was going to doctor after doctor, and my husband and mom were sad. my son had questions, but was too young to know how to ask what he needed to, so I sat him down and said this to him and it really helped.

"Mommy is sick, but not sick with a sickness that you can get. My sickness is called Cancer. You don't have to be afraid of Cancer. I have some really great doctors and we are going to fight it as best as we can. Mommy will be having surgery. The doctor will take mommy into a special room then they will make sure mommy feels no pain. when mommy can't feel any pain they will remove mommy's cancer. Mommy will look and sound funny after the surgery (They were having to remove a tumor from my hard palate and sinuses). Mommy will be on some special medicine that is just for mommy and will help mommy get better. while mommy is healing you will see a lot of daddy and grandma, they will help feed you, play with you, and if you need help they will help you. I won't be very strong for a while, but you can come climb in my lap and we can watch movies and you can even drink special milkshakes with mommy. do you have any questions?"

he asked normal little boy questions of where will we be, was mommy afraid, would the doctor hurt mommy, does my booboo (what he decided to call the tumor) hurt, etc. I answered all of his questions as honestly as I could, but in a way that wouldn't scare him too much. he came back and asked more questions off and on for the next week. my daughter asked to see my "booboo" and she asked if she could touch it. she has looked at the area almost weekly since it was removed, even though now she is looking at a big hole in the roof of my mouth. I am open with them about my cancer. when we found out I was going to need radiation as well, I sat them down again and talked to them about what was going to happen.

"The doctors feel that mommy needs another treatment to help make sure that mommy's cancer doesn't ever come back. It will make mommy very tired and grandma will have to come help out again. The doctor will be using this cool machine that has these lasers to make sure mommy is lined up right, then mommy will go into the machine and the machine will attack any remaining cancer. My skin will get red and sore, so we will have to be careful when giving mommy kisses, ok? I might even lose some of my hair, but if I lose it, it should come back someday. do you have any questions?"

his questions for that were would my hair look pretty again by christmas. I was finishing radiation a couple of weeks before thanksgiving. I told him, that I didn't know if it would for this year, but it should for next year. I promised him that I was going to fight hard and that except when I was too tired, that I would send him off to school each morning. I did, too. even on those days where after I sent him off to school with my mom I went back to sleep until it was time for my next treatment. My oldest and my middle kid, both came to check out the machine and each time I went to the doctor they would ask if I was going into the machine to get better. I would tell them yes and they would clap. i would come home and sleep, but I would wake up in time to hug my son after school and ask about his day.

we worked very hard to keep things as normal as possible. it was hard at times, but I feel it was worth it in the end. I chose to let them know what my cancer was...I didn't want them to be afraid of the word cancer, so we used it and explained it was a name for what I had, but that they couldn't get it and that I didn't get it because of anything they did.

Posts: 1
Joined: Mar 2011

Hello, my sister Ellen was diagnosed with stage IV cancer when her children were very young. With guidance from a counselor, she and her husband chose to be very honest with them about her disease. She wrote the children's story *Mommy's Cancer* (http://www.mommyscancer.org) to help them understand and talk about what it’s like to be “a kid whose mommy has cancer.” It reflects her abiding love for them.

It was Ellen’s hope that other children who love someone with cancer or another life-threatening disease might enjoy and learn from this story.

Posts: 20
Joined: Mar 2011

I was recently diagnosed and have just had my second surgery and have been completely honest with 2 children (aged 5 and 8). The 5 year old has a limited understanding but the 8 year old isbright and clued on and gets what is going on pretty clearly. I have also been open and sharing when I have been visibly upset and crying. I don't think I'd be teaching my children the right things if I only cried in private so as not to upset them, afterall crying is a healthy, normal reaction to strong emotions and I want to teach my children that it is ok to cry and be emotional and to share their pain with others.

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