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Talking To Our Child About Cancer

February 24, 2010


If you are a regular reader of mine, I’m sure you know that I’m am awfully sarcastic and always bringing humor to my writing, or at least I like to think so.  But, for this post, no joking here.  I’ve been thinking and dealing with this topic for a little over a week.  Just thought I might share a bit of what we are going through.

Bean is in first grade and I consider her pretty naive.  Maybe it’s a little bit of our doing, but I’d rather her enjoy being a kid than dealing with concepts that are over her head.  I will also admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of talking about death or even really using the words dead or kill.   I probably need to give her more credit in how much she actually understands and what she can handle.

Bean is that girl that is friends with everyone; she plays at lunch with her classmate’s sister during recess even though she is in Kindergarten.  There is a group of 5 girls that run around playing everyday.  About 2 weeks ago, we were riding in the car and she sort of just started talking about her day.  She basically told me that at recess, her classmate told her that his sister has a bump on her head and will be getting a shot on Thursdays.  At first I really didn’t put two and two together until she added that her friend might be missing some school but not to worry.  Not sure what to say, I asked her if her friend had fallen and hit her head.  Bean didn’t think so.  That night, the hubby and I discussed it, wondering how to proceed.  That evening I got what I thought was one of the saddest emails I’ve ever received.

The mother of her classmate and friend wanted me to know what she thought the kids were discussing with Bean.  Being the older brother, he wanted to make sure that everyone close to her sister knew the situation, even though the severity really hadn’t hit him.  The mother was basically filling me on regarding what they had told their kids and so I had a heads up on how to answer some questions.  Long story short, her friend has a brain tumor with a positive prognosis.  Two weeks ago, they were calling the tumor a bump or bubbles on the brain.  She would be getting medicine for the bump every Tuesday.  They were not using the “cancer” word for the moment though they were worried that Bean’s classmate might hear the term at school.

Honestly, to even have the discussion of something so awful (childhood cancer) with my daughter is just not what I wanted to do.  She is very sensitive and loves her friends dearly.  She’s not stupid and we don’t want to treat her as such.  I also want to preserve her childhood and not have her wondering about death.  But on the other hand, I would rather have the discussion up front before she comes asking me.  So not making a huge deal out of the conversation, I basically brought up the bump in her friends head.  I told her that she would be getting some medicine every Thursday.  This medicine might make her feel sick and she might miss some school  But, whatever she does, don’t treat her any different; play with her just the same.  And we left the concept as is for the last two weeks.

And as children often do, they surprise us.  Apparently, her friend & classmates mom was able to arrange for a visit from Children’s Hospitals education department to come and talk with Bean’s class and her friends class.  Bean informed me that the doctors don’t know where her friend got the tumor in her head.  It wasn’t her fault and she wasn’t contagious.  She’s going to get medicine every Thursday in something in her chest called a port.  They do not know if the medicine will work completely and it will make her sick.  She’s probably going to loose her hair; please don’t stare.  Honestly, it breaks my heart to even type this and actually give thought to this.  I really can’t imagine what her parents or siblings are going through, let alone that little 5 year old.  Bean wrapped up the conversation requesting that maybe we go out an find some fun fabric to make some head wraps and hats for her friend.  She likes cats and the color pink.

I guess I sell my daughter short, hoping that she might never have to deal with the harsh truths of life, at least not for a while.  Guess she’s a little more mature about things than I am…as I’m crying like a baby typing this.  This might sound odd, but I hate to really even think about major childhood illness or even my husband getting into an accident while on a business trip.  It’s like I worry that me thinking about these things might make them happen.  So having to even slightly confront issues like this is very uncomfortable for me.

Her friend gets her port and first does of chemo tomorrow.  52 weeks of chemo is more than most adults can handle but they caught it early before there were even physical symptoms.  If you would, keep this little girl and family in your thoughts.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2010 12:40 am

    Your little girl is so smart and so sweet to think of making head wraps. I definitely choked up reading this and I will keep Bean’s friend and her family in my thoughts daily.

  2. February 25, 2010 12:47 am

    how horrible such a young age, she thinks well wanting to make her hats & wraps!That little girl is lucky to have a friend like your daughter 🙂

  3. February 25, 2010 1:02 am

    That was very sweet of your daughter to think about a way to help her friend. It is hard to think of an innocent child going through something so difficult.

  4. February 25, 2010 8:41 am

    I will keep the family in my thoughts and prayers. That little girl is very lucky to have a friend like your little girl how sweet of her
    God Bless!

  5. February 25, 2010 8:43 am

    This is also a conversation I’d hope never to have to have with my daughter… but if I do, I’m going to remember your post. It’s amazing how resilient and compassionate children at even a young age can be. Great post!

    Confessions From A Working Mom

  6. February 25, 2010 10:49 am

    That is SO sad… but it sounds very promising in terms of the prognosis. Your little girl is smart and loving… and children are certainly more perceptive and resilient than we give them credit for. You did a great job talking with her about this and raising her.

    good job. and good luck to your daughter’s friend and her whole family.

  7. February 25, 2010 12:58 pm

    Oh my gosh… 52 weeks of Chemo. My heart goes out to that family.

    My children are in 1st grade, Kindergarten, and 2 in preschool. My mom is gravely ill and is fighting a terrible battle with cancer. I am candid with them, but my heart sinks when they ask me if I’m going to die of cancer. Ugh.

    Obviously, a child with cancer is so different — in fact, horrific — I fear too often that my children will succumb to this monster… I mean, why should I be so blessed to have healthy children — but so many others don’t? THanks for sharing.

    Cheers and hugs to you, Bean, your family, and her friend’s,

    • Tickled Pink Twice permalink*
      February 25, 2010 1:13 pm

      I’m sorry to hear about your mom. That must be awful. Cancer isn’t one of those things we’ve dealt with often in our family. At least, for the moment, our general talk about cancer will do. I think at one point, if need be, we would discuss further. You know, I’m not sure what I would say if she asked me about her dying. Let’s hope we don’t have to deal with that. Of course, yesterday, she was talking so frankly about her great grandpa Jack and how he was an angel. That is her only dealing with death and she handled it so well. Probably better than the family because she tried just to be positive. Of course, when no one else brings him up on holidays, she’s the one to talk about him and say she misses him.

  8. Tickled Pink Twice permalink*
    February 25, 2010 1:15 pm

    As always…a great group of supportive ladies. Thanks for keeping them in your thoughts.

  9. February 25, 2010 4:03 pm

    I can’t believe the doctors came to class. What a great thing to do!

    Thank you for stopping by. Your prayers are appreciated.

  10. February 25, 2010 5:05 pm

    I’ve had to have that talk with my boys when their cousin was diagnosed with a very rare, very aggressive brain tumor and then the discussion regarding his passing. It was horrible. But I always try to remember, without pain…we cannot truly feel joy. Kudos to your daughter for thinking of what she could do to cheer her friend up. I hope her friend tolerates the treatment well and has a successful outcome.

  11. February 25, 2010 7:38 pm

    Your daughter is a special friend for this little girl!

    Stopping by from Fri Follows – I’m a new follower! Love to have you stop by:

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