Saturday, April 11, 2009
Telling the Kids
When the pathologist telephoned with the results of my biopsy, he ended the call with an apology. “I’m sorry,” he said. I wondered how many times a day he had to make phone calls that ended in “I’m sorry”. After all, over 750 people are diagnosed with cancer every day. I started feeling sorry for him. But then I began to think about my children. How was I going to tell them? Give it to them straight or put it off as long as possible? Certainly, I would need more than an “I’m sorry” to get through this one. Within five minutes I was on the phone with my mother-in-law, a certified grief counselor. Needless to say, my question/revelation caught her off guard, but eventually she was able to gather her thoughts and give me some valuable advice. Basically she said that the children should not be lied to in any way. They’ll find out sooner of later, be it through overheard conversations, or just picking up on little nuances. But, only give them the information that is pertinent to them, those things that will directly affect their lives. Don’t overwhelm them with every minute detail.
So we picked a Monday night to tell them and invited my parents to be there. My parents knew what was going on and were ready to be there for extra support.
I mulled over what to say for days, but still found myself at a loss come the big night. Then the miracle happened. Every night as a family we read a chapter from the scriptures. When we opened our books to where we had left off, we all discovered to our chagrin that we were on one of the longest chapters in the book, not to mention one of the most challenging to comprehend. As the others began to moan, I began to grin.
Somehow, we made it through the entire chapter and at the end; we had the perfect chance to discuss how our family just did something really hard. We talked about how good it felt to have that long chapter behind us and how it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. The children then got to hear the word “cancer” in relation to their mom for the first time, and that wasn't easy. But then they learned that cancer doesn’t have to mean dying, sometimes it just means that, for a little while, life would be challenging and unpleasant. But that was ok…because we had just found out that together, our family could do such things.