We told our daughters about my cancer diagnosis over a long weekend. We had come to some level of acceptance and presented the girls with the facts and that the prognosis was all good. Surgery to remove all cancer, not likely to need radiation, chemotherapy may happen depends on what they find during surgery.
Then came the questions, that was the reasoning for the timing of the long weekend. Are you alright? Well, not really, there is cancer and it needs to go, but when its gone I will be alright. Does it hurt? No, no pain at all. Will surgery hurt? How long will you be in the hospital? Will we have to move? And so on and so on until they were done.
Well not quite, there was another as the evening wore on asked in a small, quiet voice while staring off into space. What if you die? I held her tight and said that was not likely, however, I understood her concern and reminded her we believe in God and heaven and that I would watch over her and send something like pennies to remind her she had a loving fan base up there.
That was HARD. I figured and hoped that sharing the positive prognosis because of early detection would avoid that question. She was not pacified, reassured or eased by that response. It was also much harder to be clinical with the answer. We constantly reassured her, had the doctor reassure her later, I don’t think it was until my hair started coming back that she felt any level of comfort in the prognosis being real.
Another question that night was equally fierce. Do men get cancer? She had her hands in fists on her hips, she looked me right in the eye, chin tilted up, feet in a clear fighting stance. She was clearly ready to add cancer to the gender equality movement with the powers that be! I reminded her that her grandfather had a few rounds with cancer and he is doing just fine, cancer is an equal opportunity affliction. We talked about how there were body part specific cancers that were not shared between genders, but she was mostly ok with that. The powers that be could rest easy that this little warrior wasn’t going to come after them for this tonight.
The last question of the evening was the one I was dreading the most. Will I get cancer someday? How do you answer that? We chose to answer with that we hoped not, that there were things they could do. That we were going to help them do, so that they would have reduced odds. There was no way we could know now if they were going to get cancer in their lifetimes. Medicine and knowledge gets better all the time and we just have to pay attention and deal with it early should it rear its ugly head, just like we are dealing with this.
Of all the things we did to prepare the girls for what was coming, I think the question and answer sessions were the hardest and what brought us closer together as a family. We revisit the questions and answers frequently, even now, and check in often to see if they are still happy with the answers or need more detail or information. We do that so that they won’t be tempted to look up information on the internet alone. We also kept that rule for ourselves, loved ones don’t let loved ones Google symptoms!