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How to explain cancer and death to my children

(8 Posts)
madamginger Mon 03-Oct-16 19:47:05

My fil has was diagnosed with a glioblastoma tumour in late August/early September . It is a completely inoperable stage 4 tumour, he is meant to start radiotherapy next week but he has been called to an emergency meeting on Wednesday with his oncologist after he had a detailed pet scan last week to plot his treatment.
We are fully expecting it to be bad news, his cancer is fast growing and in just a month his symptoms have got very bad.
He was given 6-12 months when he was given his diagnosis, but we fear that he might not have that long.
Dh is an only child and we have 3 children who are 6,8 and 10.
We haven't told them yet but we are going to have to and I have no idea how.
I feel lost, fil is only 60 and my children are close to him, they see him two or three times a week as my mil is my child care.

crispandcheesesanwichplease Tue 04-Oct-16 16:02:19

Hi OP. I'm really sorry to hear about your fil.

I think the only way to deal with the situation is to be open and honest with your kids. It's going to be really tough but they're going to have to be told at some stage.

They are probably wondering what is going on anyway as they'll sense the emotions around you and your family. They are going to be sad and experience grief, you all are.

Find a quiet moment at home when your OH is there too and when you've got time to answer any questions, give hugs. Don't give false assurances, no matter how tempting.

My heart goes out to you all. x

Stuffofawesome Tue 04-Oct-16 16:08:48

Look at Winstons wish website or call their helpline

lougle Tue 04-Oct-16 16:27:53

I think you have to be very honest. Do not use words like 'sleep' when you mean 'die'. Give the news in small chunks. Something like: 'Grandad has been having lots of headaches so he went to he doctors to find out why.' Then 'The doctors took some pictures of the inside of his head and found out that Grandad is very sick.' Then 'They can't take away that bits that are making him sick but they want to give him some strong medicines that will make the headaches a bit better.' Then 'But they can't make Grandad totally better, he's too poorly.'

I'm so sorry. I've looked after several patients with Glioblastoma in the past and it's so sad for you all. I hope he gets some relief from the treatment.

PacificDogwod Tue 04-Oct-16 16:36:26

Be totally honest, but child appropriate.
Let them lead.
"You know how granddad has been not so well recently? Well, he has a nasty growth in his brain. Do you know what cancer means?"
If they ask whether he is going to die, say 'Yes, but we don't know when. He is going to have treatment and we will have to wait and see how he gets on'.
Then answer their questions.
Be prepared for odd questions ("Is granddad's head going to explode?") or no apparent reaction at all. Some kids will go away, digest what they have been told and come back with questions, sometimes at odd times.
It may raise questions about their own or your mortality - those can be really hard to answer sad
Use proper words and language - I totally agree with avoiding 'sleep' as a euphemism for death; say 'death' and 'dying' when appropriate.
Children can be a real blessing in a horrible situation like this because they tend to behave the way they feel, so will be happy and funny at times. They will continue to need to be fed and clothed and go to school, so some level of routine will need to be maintained which will likely be good for you.
Do think about your childcare:; will MIL be able/willing to continue giving you that kind of regular commitment as he get iller? Make plans NOW.

In fact, that is my best bit of advice that applies to almost anything in this situation: plan for the worst, then hope for the best.
CRUSE have some material about how to talk to children about death and how to support them once a loved one has died.

I am so sorry you are all going through this thanks

madamginger Tue 04-Oct-16 17:25:28

Thanks all,
The children can go to after school club instead of mil but at the moment she want to keep looking after them, I think she looking to keep some sort of normalcy.

We thought he'd had a stroke over the bank holiday weekend, which is how he got diagnosed. He didn't start with headaches.
He had surgery in early September to do a biopsy and debulking but the neurosurgeon could only remove 5% of the tumour because of its position, so they know he's not well as he has a massive scar on his head.
The very cruel thing is my own dad died from the same thing when I was 7 sad
So they have an abstract idea of death as we talk about him sometimes when looking at old photos.

FarelyKnuts Tue 04-Oct-16 17:33:09

I just recently dealt with this with my own 6yo when my mother died.
I was honest with her and told her grandma was very sick with something called cancer and that the doctors are giving her medicine to try to help BUT it might not as she is very poorly. That it wasn't contagious and no one did anything to make it happen (I didn't want her worrying she had done something or could catch it etc).
Then when she died I told her that she had died. That her body had been too sick to fix. That it was very unfair and it's ok to be sad or angry or anything she felt really.

Northernlurker Tue 04-Oct-16 17:38:06

You've some very good advice here op. I just wanted to say I feel for you. I had to tell my girls that my bill was terminally ill. It's an awful thing to have to do. I can't remember what I said at all. It's a blur. I just remember feeling so sad that I had to do it.

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