I know what you’re thinking. “Every post isn’t going to be about cancer is it?” No, but obviously, this is something that is on my mind right now so indulge me if you will. After all… I have cancer. You have to be nice.
I’ve explained to The Kids what’s happening with me & am doing my best to be honest with them. I had a friend tell me that his mom died of breast cancer, and no one told him or his sister for more than a year. He said what they imagined was so much worse than the reality & wished his parents had been up front. That conversation was huge in my decision to tell the kids everything. I had initially thought that I would tell them I was having surgery, but I didn’t need to actually say The “C” Word, did I? But I noticed as I said it more, it took on less power. It became less scary. The first few times I told someone I had breast cancer, I started crying as I said it. The last time I told someone, I didn’t really bat an eye. Just told them. Then gently pushed their lower jaw back together with the rest of their face & moved on.
The following was part of a text exchange that took place shortly after I was diagnosed with my beautiful niece – let’s call her, oh, say… Alyssa.
Alyssa: “Do the kids know about the cancer? That word is terrible. I feel guilty even saying/typing it. Like if I whisper, it won’t hear me.”
That’s when I realized… Cancer is like the Voldemort of diseases. It has become “It That Cannot Be Named.” And dammit, I’m going to do what I can to stop that. What I’m trying to say is a long, convoluted way of explaining why I wanted to be fully honest with The Kids. Why hide it? Why create more of a stigma around it? And why make my family & friends tip toe around it & wonder what & how much The Kids know.
So I sat them down one night – it was right after Trick or Treat so they were all sugared up & ready to have a good ol’ serious one-on-one with mom. I told them that I had something that needed to be taken care of & that I was going to be having surgery. Then I asked them if they knew what cancer was.
The Boy: “I’ve heard of breast cancer.”
The Girl: “Me too. We did that walk with Girl Scouts, remember?”
Me: “Awesome. (high fives all around) Do know what cancer is?”
lots of head shaking
Me: “It’s a disease where bad cells start growing in a person’s body & if it’s not taken care of, those bad cells will start to take over good cells. Mine was found really early so once I have surgery, I’ll have some other treatments & then hopefully it will be all gone. Does that make sense?”
And this is where the sugar kicks in….
The Girl: “So it’s like the bad cells are sitting there telling the good cells: ‘Come to the dark side. We have cookies.”
Me: “Um…. Something like that…”
The Boy: “See, I pictured it more like the bad cells got hit by lightning & mutated into like a Godzilla thing & started rampaging through your city.”
Me: “Okay… so we seem to have a clear grasp of what’s going on. Any questions?”
The Girl: “So where is your cancer?”
Me: “In my boob.”
The Boy: “I will pay you to not ever say ‘boob’ again.”
They have both since had good days & bad days. The Boy wanted to be home with me immediately following the surgery, claiming that he needed to be here to help me. The Girl has told everyone she’s met & has often come home with comments such as, “My CCD teacher has cancer, too. He’s going to call you.” I’m glad she’s talking about it. She’s probably reached more people than this blog.
One thing that many people have told me is to maintain my sense of humor. It seems as though The Kids are trying to take that approach as well.
Of course, nothing has made me laugh more than a comment made by The Joan as she was trying to explain my particular type of breast cancer: “It started in her Milk Duds.”
She may need her own blog.