We all want to protect our children’s innocence and keep their world safe and happy for as long as were semi in control of it. I struggle with how much information about my health I should share with my kids since I was diagnosed with stage III melanoma last year. I wonder how much to share with my son in particular, who is five years old. He is old enough to know that something is wrong but not old enough to grasp the details.
|If I don’t say the “c” word, does it cease to exist?
Photo via valleyparent.com
I’ve been very careful over the past year, since my cancer diagnosis, to never utter the “c”word in front of my son. We talk about how my arm is different now because of my surgery (I permanently lost the ability to lift more than a few pounds and can’t do any repetitive motions or my arm will swell and be painful). He refers to my cancer as my “gumball,” the name I gave the lump that turned out to be my affected lymph nodes that were removed. I know he wonders what happened and if it is serious but I have no clue how to handle it. So I just avoid the topic completely unless he asks directly about it.
In the days after diagnosis, I couldn’t look at my son without crying. I tried to keep it together but the tears would just roll out no matter what I did. I told him I had allergies. It was the best I could come up with in the moment. Every time I saw his face I imagined me not being there to tuck him into bed or make him breakfast or take him to school….who would do those things? Who could love him as much as I do? My husband is an amazing father but is it possible for a mother’s love to ever be replaced? He knew I went to the doctor’s office constantly and he knew when I had surgery but I never wanted to admit to him that I was scared.
It was easier for me to pretend everything was OK for him during the day. We all just went on about our routine and tried to keep it as normal as possible. It was a benefit to all of us. Then the night would come. Once my son was tucked away in bed, reality would hit and I would spend the rest of the night in a sleepless cold sweat.
Even though my health is good I still have questions about how to handle my five year old and his questions. He will occasionally ask when my arm will be “all better.” I tell him this is “as good as it gets” and I’m grateful for it. He looks sad when he hears my answer. He asks why I go to the doctor so much and I tell him it’s because they’re going to make sure my gumball doesn’t come back. He asks me if he will ever have a gumball too. Gulp. That’s one that I definitely cannot discuss. I tell him “absolutely not” but that is the thing that still keeps me awake at night. For my son, it is all about prevention and I’m still in control of that for a few more years. I pray I do a good enough job for him.
I don’t have the answers. If I did I would probably handle everything completely differently but this is the best I can do right now. I feel comfortable, for the most part, with how I have let it play out. I haven’t had to have any treatment or radiation that has impaired my health to the point that he needs more of an explanation. No hair loss. No violently ill moments. I don’t want him to lie awake at night and wonder if his mommy will be around forever.
I just want to let him keep the safe world he lives in together for as long as possible. Hopefully, he keeps it forever.
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