Week Commencing 28th August 2017
Ste and I are blessed to have two fantastic children D and A who are 9 and 8. As a parent you have that natural desire to protect your children from everything and anything whilst hopefully still letting them grow and develop into the perfect little humans that they are and will become. One of the reasons I didn’t want to share our recent news with other people was that I was scared that the kids might accidentally hear from another child or someone by mistake. Now that we had broken the news to our family and some of our close friends it sort of prompted us to tell the kids sooner rather than later.
From the last meeting with the skin care nurse we had been given various booklets and leaflets from Macmillan, one was how to talk to children about cancer including a DVD. Being that Ste has removed all the DVD players in the house (much to my disgust) unfortunately this wasn’t going to be much use to us for this discussion. The lack of DVD players in the house is an issue of mine, if I had my way I’d still keep hold of the CD player and while were at it video player and wireless. But no, not in the this house, so as a result on the rare occasion that I am to be entrusted with the holy grail (aka remote control) in the hope of a nice relaxing ‘quiet night in’ to myself I have to resort to enlisting the help of my 9-year-old daughter to show me how to use these devices. So instead of the long-awaited rom com or chick flick I had planned on watching I’m usually still sat up with two kids way past their bed time eating sweets and popcorn watching another Disney movie that we only just watched last week for the 12th time. Usually at the end of it they then ask for a sleepover to which I’m normally bullied into (am I one of those parents who can’t so no?) and after finally calming down the two gremlins who have just been fed past midnight I’m usually left in the middle of a bed that isn’t mine with a foot or elbow to one side and the face of an angel breath of satan to the other. So if anyone has a DVD of Bridemaids and a DVD player that they fancy lending me please do before someone buys the rights and make it into another Disney movie which I’ll be forced to watch one evening somewhere down the line.
In spite of all this I wouldn’t change any of this for all the money in the world. Even at time when they might test the patience of a saint I know how lucky I am to have these two amazing children that I can proudly call mine. One of my biggest fears in all this was the thought that I might not be around to see them grow up and share all the special memories and milestones that a parent should with their children. For me missing out on that is not an option so I will give every thing I have to make sure that it happens.
Telling your kids that you’re not well is never going to be easy nor is it something that you would have much experience of. We looked at the Macmillan books however there seemed to be more information on how to tell teenagers. I read some post about how to tell younger children but it seemed that both mine were sort of in between i.e. they would be able to understand to a point about illnesses but they may not understand fully about cancer and how it might affect us all. Luckily I read a bit of a post saying that sometimes children’s behaviour changes when they find out a parent is ill, they can become extremely naughty and other times they become better behaved than normal as they can feel they are somehow to blame. I also read that sometimes their reaction might seem selfish as children don’t always see full picture.
We weren’t quite prepared but nevertheless we decided it was time to tell them the news. We all sat and had tea together round the table then we sat them down and told them. I can’t remember exactly the words that came out but I remember I managed to keep it together a little bit. Ste also told them that we might have to move houses as we were unsure if I would be able to work. Now we didn’t do much research on what the responses might be but I’m pretty sure none of our children’s reactions were amongst those written down. A (the youngest) was sat at the table clearly upset and crying which obviously broke our hearts. However, when Ste asked him what bits were upsetting him the most we weren’t quite expecting his response of “I don’t want to have a smaller bedroom.” Nor were we expecting Daisy to stand up and say “Can I watch TV now?” However when we asked her why, she said because she knew what cancer was and it was upsetting her and she didn’t want to hear anymore. This is something that broke my heart and still does.
They weren’t the textbook answers that you might read about but then again none of the key milestones in my life had the picture perfect reactions or textbook responses. For instance there was the time when we told our parents that we were expecting our first child the response was pretty much along the lines of “bloody hell” (my sister had just broke then news that she was expecting pretty much three months prior to this). Then there was the time I told Ste we were expecting our second child which was followed by the response “for fuck sake” (it was slightly unexpected being that we were just getting used to D and the age gap between them would be 15 months at a push). Not forgetting the time when myself and Ste told my parents we were going to get married which we did over the phone as my parents were away on holiday at the time. My mum gave the response “We’ll if that’s what you want to do”. Not quite the response we were hoping for after being together for thirteen years. There my have been prosecco involved in her response as in the morning she had forgotten the whole conversation so my dad phoned to check the news the following morning.
Nevertheless what I have learned is that these initial responses weren’t important. What was important was their behaviour and how they showed their love and support from that point onwards. Ste got his head around child number 2 who is pretty much his double as did I and our family wouldn’t be complete without him or D. I’m also pleased to say my parents also got round to the fact that we decided to get married rather than continue to live in sin and my mum has also managed to remember most important conversations since despite her prosecco induced memory loss. We too have found that our kids have been admirable in the way they have accepted and helped me on this journey.
No text-book can prepare you for how your children will react and no one knows a child better than a parent. Whether you decide to tell your children or not is completely up to you. What I will say is that from that point forward there were no secrets. There were no more quiet conversations or crying behind doors. They have been part of this journey from more or less the start. They might not always be able to see my illness which is something that they struggled to understand at first. However they’re always there to wish me good luck before a scan or appointment and they’re there with a sympathetic hug when I’m crying or sad. They too have worries and down days and we are lucky enough to have support from friends and school to watch out for them and to share their thoughts with. They are the glue that sticks us together, the purpose and drive to survive along with my husband and family and what will push me to overcome my fears and beat this disease.