Knowing that major surgery would now be imminent, followed by what would inevitably become a long and slow recovery/further treatment plan, the decision would have to be made as to how to explain this to my son. I had made my mind up that if it was just a lumpectomy, then he would just have to know that mummy was having a little operation and that would be it. The plan was already formed to take him to England to stay with his grandparents whilst I had the surgery and recovered, so in theory, he might have been none the wiser. However, now, this was different. There was no getting away from the fact that mummy would be walking around with one boob less (I’ve just remembered that we used to write that on calculators ‘back in the day)’,
Explaining cancer to your kids
There are some brilliant support websites and books out there to explain ‘’cancer’ to your kids. The general consensus seems to be to not explain to 5 and unders, consider it for 6-7 year olds and explain to 8 +. My concern with my son is that in March 2018, just 18 months previously, he had witnessed me almost dying when I got crushed between a van and a wall. (I don’t use the term ‘almost’ lightly. My consultant said that another 2 seconds and that would have been it. My fifteen broken ribs and broken vertebrae were testament that they had done their ‘protecting’ job, but there was very little left to break before my organs gave up the ghost).
That had clearly had an effect on him, as it would on anyone witnessing something like that, so to be adding to that trauma for a child of six, was the last thing that I wanted to do. However, the lack of a boob and the ensuing illness from further treatment would have been obvious to the dimmest six year old, let alone one who spent his time trying to earn money and explaining global warming to anyone who would listen.
It was not a conversation I was looking forward to, especially as in Week 1 we had sat down together to watch ‘The Voice-Kids’, only to see a magnificent 13 year old boy on there who had lost his mother to cancer the previous year. It was a segment that sent me running from the room before he could see me cry, and now, was at the top of my mind when it came to the discussion we were about to have.
‘Maxi, do you remember a few weeks ago you were asking me about Cancer and what it was?’
‘’No’’…so that was a good start…
‘’Well, cancer is when you get some bad cells in your body. You know I had that tiny operation last week, well from that, the doctor found that I have some bad cells in my body and they need to get them out’’.
‘’How are they going to do that mummy?’’
“Well”, (there were a lot of ‘’well’s’’- I find it is a good word to ‘’think’’ to)
‘’Well, the bad cells are in my booby, so the best way to get rid of them will be for the doctor to cut off my booby’’.
‘’So the doctor is going to chop off your booby mummy?’’
‘’Yes, he is’’.
‘’Will it hurt?’’
‘’I think so, but it will also be the best way to get rid of the bad cells’’
And, seemingly it was OK. A conversation that I had debated having in the first place, let alone how that conversation would go, had happened, and my world hadn’t ended. This would be OK.
Talk to the world…
The only thing that you have to bear in mind when you go down this route of telling your child that you have cancer, is that if they are a talkative child (interpret as you wish), they will then tell EVERYONE that you have cancer and that you will be getting your booby chopped off. Everyone. From people in our local pub, to people working in the supermarket, they were all told. But you know what? That is fine. If a six-year old wants to tell the entire world that you have cancer, and by talking about it, it makes it less scary for him, then so be it. Let the world know that I am having my booby chopped off.