How did you tell your children you were diagnosed with cancer?

member9982 (Survivor (2 – 5 years)) – 09 / 16 / 2011

My husband and I told our children together. At the time they were 14, 15 and 19. Although the diagnosis of Triple Negative Breast Cancer can be frightning, we tried not to pass that on to them. I was a little evasive about the actual stage and type of breast cancer. I followed my oncologist’s lead and was as positive as I could be. My husband and I both decided that leaning too heavily on them would be a little too much, especially at this age. Of course that’s not to say they didn’t have to pitch in and help! If I would do anything differently, I would only have tried to make a little more time to spend with each of them alone to talk about their reaction. At the time with so many appointments, chemo,and surgery, it was overwhelming.

DebbieWWGN (Survivor (2 – 5 years)) – 09 / 16 / 2011 From the time of my mammogram to actual diagnosis was five months. My husband and I decided to tell our children, ages 15 and 12, nothing until I was certain of the diagnosis and treatment plan. I have never regretted keeping them in the dark during those days of great uncertainty and stress. When we told them, I was able to be clear that I was not going to die and would eventually heal from my mastectomy and reconstruction. If I could do anything differently, I would have prepared myself better for their reaction. While I thought I had done everything I could to make it easier on them to hear, they were still horribly upset. Of course, I knew intellectually that they would be, but emotionally it was hard on all of us.

Elynjacobs (Survivor (2 – 5 years)) – 09 / 17 / 2011 Our boys were 3 and 4 at the time. We chose not to say anything until we knew more about the plan for treatment. However, children are very intuitive. Before we told them, by four year old began asking questions. “Mommy, is one of your friends sick?” No dear. “Is one of your friends dying?” No dear. I could tell he was affected by all the hushed conversations. When we did tell them, we explained that mommy had some stuff inside her that was making her sick and the doctor needs to take it out. The 4yr old had had some minor surgery the year prior. He asked me if I would be going to the same hospital, I said yes, He asked me if the doctor would use the same tools. I said yes. He then looked at me and said, “Oh, then you will be fine.” and scampered off. When I came home, he helped with the drains, and it made him feel so important. The younger one really did not comprehend any of this, and neither remembers anything. I never said the word cancer. At the time, my mother was losing her battle, and died seven months later, and my older son’s best friend’s mother was losing her battle. We feared that if the boys knew I had cancer, they would think I would soon die. I would not change the way I handled it, except maybe to tell them at least something right away. I am sure the wheels were going in their heads and likely this caused some stress.