Talking Cancer With My Daughter

Many people who learn about my breast cancer diagnosis last year ask me how my daughter handled the news. She is 13 and she handled it much better than I expected.

When I got my diagnosis Tomas was in Nepal and had sketchy Internet access. I didn’t tell my daughter until Tomas got back and we had been to the breast surgeon and had more information. I actually didn’t want to tell her at all because her life was all kittens and rainbows and I didn’t want to darken it with my ugly cancer juju. Well I had no idea that not telling her up front would backfire. She had been really obsessed lately about heaven and hell and what exactly determined who ended up where. A kid at her school ticked off a huge list of transgressions that would supposedly send you to hell. Based on things he told her, his parents appear to be a bit fanatical because according to them it seems 90% of the population is going to hell. I told her over and over about our family’s beliefs and that God is loving and merciful. One night she was obsessing and being all neurotic about going to hell and I was already feeling stabby because I hadn’t taken my anti-anxiety medicine. I kind of snapped and said I couldn’t deal with her OCD fire and brimstone crap right now. I then told her about the cancer and not at all in the way I planned. Of course I apologized and hugged her and told her it was wrong of me to minimize her worries and that I was just under a lot of stress. Surprisingly though she was very circumspect and actually asked if I was going to die (and if I did die she probably wondered where I was headed). I told her the truth, that according to the surgeon “probably not.” I explained how I was going to have a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation and what that entailed and while my outcome is optimistic, there are no guarantees in life. I admitted I was terrified because the cancer could return. I told her we would pray about it and if she ever wanted to talk about it we would, and I wouldn’t keep things from her in the future. It turns out she had an idea something was wrong all along. Kids are more perceptive than we think. Since that day she has been compassionate, helpful and so supportive. She made chemo beanies for me, cooked, did laundry and of late, listens to my endless complaints about my tissue expander pain. I was wrong to keep my cancer from her because she is a part of me and it affects her too. We have always been close and this cancer battle has only strengthened that bond.

Monday I have my 16th fill at The Boob Whisperer and after that I’ll have just two left. The pain now has a burning sensation like my flesh is being peeled from my body. This reconstruction process has been the most painful experience of my life but I will come out stronger for it and hopefully with some nice perky new girls.

This picture speaks to me as a mother on so many levels.


Photo: Attempted Essays