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Diagnosed with breast cancer - how do I tell the children?

(10 Posts)
Updatingmywill Tue 14-Jan-14 19:35:30

I have namechanged for this as it just seems too personal.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of December and have spent the last 2 weeks doing tests at the hospital. I will have surgery next Monday to remove a lump and I expect radiotherapy afterwards, but will know more after we meet with the oncologist tomorrow.

I have been putting off telling friends and colleagues as long as possible, because I don't want to have to deal with their shock / horror / fear / pity. But I have not told my children yet to limit the amount of time they will be worrying about me. I have a dd (13 but developmentally delayed) and a ds (11 and sensitive). I have not told my parents because my mother would whittle (sp?) herself to death and not sleep etc etc. We don't see them often as we live overseas so they are not aware of time spent at the hospital.

My dh has been great about tracking down information for me and coming with me to the meeting with the doctor. In fact, he has cancelled a business trip this week in order to be with me tomorrow. However, it seems that he is dealing with it by talking about it - the exact opposite of me. So he has told his office and his brother, which I don't have a problem with. But he keeps wanting to discuss it in front of the children or letting things slip which is upsetting me.

Consequently I probably need to speak to them sooner rather than later. As I will have surgery on Monday, I definitely need to tell them something but I don't know where to start. I wanted to wait until after the meeting tomorrow and possibly until Friday evening.

What do I say? Any advice would be gratefully received.

Oh, and I am updating my will, not because I'm being morbid but because I'm a practical person and as we are not living in the UK, I need to be sure that my existing will is valid in this country.

malteserzz Tue 14-Jan-14 20:18:22

If you come over to the tamoxifen thread in general health we have all been through this and can help and hold your hand smile
I just told my 10 year old I had a lump which needed to come out, didn't actually say the word cancer. My 14 year old knows everything. Both have been very matter of fact about it and have coped really well including my ops, chemo, losing my hair etc
Hugs to you it's such a shock but does get easier once you get treatment underway
And survival rates are great these days do you don't need to be on this board x

CMOTDibbler Tue 14-Jan-14 20:29:43

Breast Cancer care have some advice on talking to your children about breast cancer - here that might help.

Sorry you are having to go through this.

Your children have probably by now twigged that something is up and not knowing what may be more upsetting than just getting the facts.

Tell them. Be honest, but age-appropriate. There is no need to say the C work, however if they ask, don't deny it. Talk about lumps and having it taken out and treatment afterwards to make sure it does not come back. Tell them how long you are likely to be in hospital, what treatment you'll have afterwards.

Try yourself to think of this as a 'chronic' illness just now, because this early after diagnosis nobody can tell you how you are going to do - statistics do not tell you how your illness is going to pan out.

Wrt be honest, but don't overreach.
thanks

invicta Tue 14-Jan-14 20:43:49

Be honest! I had Bc in 2012. My dcs were 11 and 9 at the time. They are probably aware that you have been to the doctor a lot recently so realise something is up.

I think you need to reassure them that cancer does not equal death, and breast cancer is curable. Answer any questions honestly. Explain about the operation and what's happening. Our bc nurse was willing to speak the children, so this may be an avenue to explore if you find it difficult to talk yourself. Also, it's worth mentioning that, the whole,process can be tiring and emotional, so if they see you cry, don't worry, it's part of the process.

Do you watch Eastenders? Carol Jackson has just been diagnosed. Maybe you could use her situation as an introduction. Real life people who have had BBC include Kylie Minogue and Jennifer Saunders. You could use them as real life people who have survived bc.

Sending hugs to you.

difficultpickle Tue 14-Jan-14 20:44:22

I would keep it factual and not try and second guess what the future will be.

I was diagnosed with a form of blood cancer in November. Since then it has progressed from being one where I need a bone marrow (stem cell) transplant and I will be completely cured to one where I need aggressive chemo before I have any hope of being considered for a transplant.

I've told ds (9) about the chemo and transplant but not about the possible negative outcome of all of that. I also didn't tell him it was cancer as one of his teachers has cancer. I don't know what her prognosis is and I didn't want ds to link the two.

Ds wrote a list of questions that he wanted to ask me and we went through them together. Some of them were practical (will I lose my hair) and others where heartbreaking ('I worry about what would be my last memory of you'). Even though I haven't told him I may well die he picked up on that.

Good luck with your operation and fingers crossed for a positive outcome for you.

I'm trying to tell my DCs things a bit at a time, they now know I have a brain tumour and that I 'might' need an operation (I will), I'll tell them more after I've had more scans in 2 weeks and seen the consultant in 3 weeks.

I was keen to avoid a grand announcement or 'big reveal' and was very matter of fact as I brought it into the conversation over dinner. DS has AS so I need to be extra careful.

I went back to them on their own individually later, I like the idea of encouraging them to write a list of questions.

Good luck! flowers I'm doing a will too.

Hope things went OK today OP and you've more idea what you're facing.
Maybe tell the DCs about the surgery first then radiotherapy, if that is what is required.

All the best flowers

Updatingmywill Wed 15-Jan-14 20:22:34

Well I was all syched up to tell them this evening after a reasonably positive meeting with the oncologist (the initial tests seem to indicate that it hasn't spread). However, whilst I was out at the grocery store, an old friend showed up. She lives in Australia and I have seen her since the last time she came back for a visit a year ago! So the evening was very pleasant, catching up and talking about old times, but I didn't get to talk to the children.

Thank you for all your answers. Difficultpickle, your son's worry about what his last memory of you would be made me want to cry. I worry about what their last memory of me would be. sad

I actually feel more able to talk about it after today's meetings. I will be trying to avoid using the C word and might well keep the radiotherapy and hormone therapy for a later chat. The doctor was cautiously optimistic that I might not need chemo.

I agree that honesty will be best. And the list of questions would be a good idea for my ds as he is so much more articulate than my dd.

I will go and check out the Tamoxifen thread, thank you malteserzz. I didn't realise there was one, and tamoxifen was certainly mentioned as being the likely drug. And I'm off to read the Breast Cancer care leaflet.

Best wishes!

BackforGood Wed 15-Jan-14 20:33:03

Definitely get yourself over to the Tamoxifen thread - they are a great and supportive bunch over there.
When I was diagnosed, I knew from the outset that the best thing for me was to be totally open and honest with my dc from the outset.
My dc would have been 15 (in his GCSE year), 12 and 10 at the time. I didn't want them to pick up on a change of atmosphere. I didn't want them to think we were hiding something (as you'd only hide bad news from the dc n'est pas?), and I didn't want them to hear about it from someone else, or pick up on it from the Get Well Cards, phone calls, people asking them how I was, etc.
They all took it differently, but I absolutely think it was the right thing to do, and I would do exactly the same again if I had to.
Good to hear you have had a positive meeting.

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