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Mikki630's Breast Cancer Chronicle
Your Kids, Your Cancer
About Me
About Breast Biopsies
Understanding your Pathology Report
Ports for Chemotherapy
Pictures--Hairloss and Regrowth Timeline
Our Experience
Attitude is EVERYTHING
Your Kids, Your Cancer
Women's Health & Cancer Rights Act of 1998
Reconstruction Photos--WARNING!!! GRAPHIC
Paget's Disease of the Nipple
The Breast Self Exam (BSE)
Breast Cysts
Nipple Discharge
Understanding Fibrocystic Breasts
My Journal

How do I tell my kids that I have cancer?


My family August 1997, just after my bilateral mastectomies & before I began chemo: Aaron, just turned 4yo, my hubby, me, Lauren almost 10.

I have a number of resources on my LINKS page.
What, and how, you tell your kids will be determined by their ages. And whether they are toddlers, school-aged, teens, young adults or middle-aged--they will all have their own individual issues because their mom has breast cancer.
My Own Experience--mine were 9 1/2yo daughter & 3 1/2yo son
I had no idea how I was going to tell them that their mommy had breast cancer. I just knew that I had to do it carefully, as we had just lost my beloved mom 20 days before I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I started with my daughter. At her age, she had a number of issues: she was entering puberty (just as I was losing both breasts), she had just lost her grandmother, with whom she was extremely close, to another cancer (leukemia) abruptly & virtually without warning. And she was afraid that I was going to leave her, too.
Basically, I waited about a week after I was diagnosed to talk with her. I was trying to sort things out in my mind & wasn't quite sure what to tell her.
After having seen me suddenly shut up a few times when she came into a room while I was talking with my friends, she confronted me angrily.
"I am not stupid, you know! I know something is wrong because you stop talking when I come around, I want to know what it is!"
I told her that something was bothering me and I didn't want to tell her earlier. Not because of HER, but because I wasn't ready myself. She seemed to understand that.
I sat with her (in the dark) in her bed and started by talking about my mom who had just died. Being in the dark seemed to help bring some of the questions and fears out, at least in our case.
"Remember how Oma had something wrong inside her that the doctors couldn't fix?"  She nodded.
"Well, I have something wrong inside my breasts that they CAN fix. But the doctors will need to give me an operation to take them off. They will also give me some very strong special medicine."  She was curious about why they had to remove my breasts, but not overwhelmed by it.
"The medicine that they give me is not like anything that the doctors would prescribe for you or your little brother. This medicine is SO strong that it will make my tummy feel kinda yucky and it will make my hair fall out. I will look kinda weird, but I will still be your same old mom."
She then asked me, "Are you gonna die?"
I didn't want to jump right in and say either way. I hadn't yet been staged so I didn't have a CLUE if I was going to die soon or not. I had to take a breath.
"I plan on working very hard with the doctors to keep me around for a very long time. Daddy & I will take care of you, so try not to worry about that, OK? I know you are very scared because Oma just died. But I don't have the kind of cancer she had, OK?"  She nodded.
Then she surprised me by asking, "Since YOU got it, am I going to get it too?" I explained that we would take very good care of her & make sure she got special check-ups, but she didn't have to even THINK about that for a very long time. She was satisfied with that.
We talked for a very long time that night.  We alternately cried and hugged and even chuckled a little when talking about losing my hair. That was the biggest thing for her--she did NOT want any of her friends to see me without any hair.
Telling my son was no big deal--at 3 1/2, he didn't care. I just told him that I was going to have an operation & I would have 2 "owies" on my chest so he wouldn't be able to hug me tooooo tight. Then I made a funny face and told him I was getting some special medicine that would make all my hair fall out so I would look VERY silly! We chuckled together & then he asked me for a snack. That was it.
To show them or not to show them? That was the question...
And how do they react to you when you're bald???
I had never been one to cover my breasts when my children were around. It was not an issue in our house. But I knew that I had to approach the bilateral mastectomy viewing very delicately.
As a freshly post-op patient, my scars were pretty angry looking. They were purplish red and there were Steri-Strips (surgical tape) and staples in place. I also had 2 drains on 1 side & 1 drain on the other. I didn't want to traumatize them. I still hugged them (rather gingerly) and kissed them & tucked them in every night, as was our usual routine.
I decided to wait until the incisions were well-healed and had faded somewhat. This took a few weeks. I asked them if they wanted to see. They did. I told them it didn't hurt anymore. My daughter studied each one. My son could have cared less.
It has never been an issue. My son used to ask me, "Tell me again what happened to your breasts?" and then he would say, "Ohhhhhh."
End of story.
He does, however, get protective of me. He used to get so angry with people when they would stare at me when we were out & about. I do not wear my prostheses and I used to go without my wig quite a lot.
When he would see someone staring or whispering, he would put his hands on his hips and say, "You think they never saw a woman with no breasts BEE-FORE!" He had heard my husband make that comment.
He also began to "OUT" me. When in a restaurant, he would tell the waitress, "My mom is really bald-headed. That is her wig." Of course, the poor waitress would be mortified until we would all chuckle.
He also told a male clown, "My mom has no breasts, She had cancer." Poor guy almost choked as he was blowing up a balloon for him. Then again we just chuckled & I told him I was ALWAYS being outed LOL.
I also took my kids wig shopping. We all had a great time trying on wigs & laughing at all the different looks.
I was surprised that once my hair fell out, my daughter would NOT pose for a picture with me. Didn't matter if I wore my wig or not--she would NOT do it. We did not have any family pictures with her in them that Christmas.
Son was no problem--in fact, he used to sit on the couch next to me with his blankie in one hand, rubbing my fuzzy head with the other. "Momma's little fluff-fluff 'hay-ed'," he'd say.