How do you tell your kids their father has cancer? Not only that, but the stage 4 there is no stage 5 kind of cancer. How do you tell them this when you have only just begun to process this information yourself?
After leaving the clinic with his diagnosis, my husband and I had spent the day reeling from the news. We revolved through feelings of shock, disbelief, fear, and grief. We clung to each other and cried, unable to fathom what this could possibly mean for our near and distant futures. We read a few articles online as to what and how to tell your children. Then I think we rented a funny movie and tried to take our minds off of all that had just transpired, and waited for the kids to get home from school.
We were a team, we had always been a team. We left our hometown a month after we got married and moved to a different coast for my husband’s new job. We had spent our entire married life together far away from our families, and what that created was our own very strong family unit. We had no one to run to except each other when there was a problem, and I think we learned fairly quickly that communication and respect were key elements to our relationship. This didn’t change after we had kids, they just became part of the team.
We briefly debated waiting until we had more information, until we knew what the plan was going to be before we told the kids. But it was Friday, we weren’t going to see a doctor until Monday, and besides that, they would read it all over our faces as soon as they walked through the door. We decide that we would just rip off the band-aid and get it over with, and then we would face it together.
I went back and found an email that I had written to my mother shortly after we told the children…
We just told the kids… All things considered I think it went pretty well. “Daughter (age 9)” burst into tears, but now seems calm and like she’s trying to pretend that it didn’t just happen (she’s buried it somewhere). “Son (age 11)” was very concerned and wanted to know the odds of survival, and if dad was going to die, could he catch it?, is this the worst type of cancer?, who do we know that’s had cancer and lived?, etc. (he will stew with it I think)… Biggest concern for both is obviously is dad going to die… Heart breaking, but we managed to stay fairly calm. Helps that we don’t have the hideous answers to these questions yet. This has to be a bad dream right?
This began our policy of keeping the children in the loop on everything that was happening. It was important to us that they felt like we weren’t keeping anything from them. We hoped that if they knew the plan, knew what was going to happen and when, that this would help reduce their stress and allow them to prepare for what would be happening to their father. They were part of the team, they were part of this, and they would be onboard for all the changes we would eventually make.