Because we’ve been hearing about different stories regarding my health flying around our children’s school, we decided to go ahead and tell them what I was having done on December 1st. We had planned to wait until after Thanksgiving but were starting to get concerned that they might learn it from someone else first. Totally uncool.
So, I decided to let my husband take the reins and do the explaining while I sat nearby in the room wearing a pleasant smile all the while. My mom was there, too, and we both thought my husband did a great job laying it all out for them. If anything, his vocal inflection almost sounded like he was telling a fairy tale so you couldn’t help but listen and feel comforted by his words. My kids seemed to focus on everything pretty intently and the first comments we got were from my daughter. When she heard that my chest x-ray revealed that something was inside of me, she jumped to her feet excitedly and shouted, “A baby? You have a baby in your stomach?!!?”
Sigh. Not really the reaction I was expecting. And it took a few minutes for us to convince her that there was no way that a baby had crawled from my abdomen to the top of my chest cavity, which was her explanation as well as her desperate hope. My son didn’t say much and the topic of discussion quickly changed to his NFL Fantasy Football team and her TV preferences for the night.
I was a little surprised they weren’t a bit more shaken … but then I mentally slapped myself across the face and realized how lucky I was that they were so relaxed about the whole thing. I took the ‘good mom’ high ground and decided to enjoy the calm of my happy family. Until later that night …
Everyone had stepped out except my daughter and I who were busily readying her for bed when she said, out of the blue, “Mommy, I don’t want you to think that I don’t care since I’m not acting sad. I’m just trying not to think about it.” I sat on the bed with her and gave her a big hug and told her she had nothing to worry about … but she insisted, “I’m afraid surgery is going to hurt you. Isn’t it going to hurt?” I explained that I would be asleep and wouldn’t feel a thing. (No. Of course, I didn’t mention the aftermath.) And then she added, nervously, “When my friend’s mom had surgery, she caught cancer. And I don’t want you to catch cancer, too.”
You just never know what your little people are thinking until you finally get it out of them. My poor girl. I was so happy to be able to tell her that you can’t catch cancer. And that her friend’s mom already had cancer and that the surgery had cured her. Finally smiling, she hugged me back and promised to share any other concerns she had about me with us so we could help her.
The subject didn’t come up again with my son until last night, after we returned home from our Thanksgiving festivities. My daughter stayed over at my parents’ house last night so my husband and I had our boy to ourselves for a change. Later in the evening, he and I were hanging out watching TV together when he suddenly turned to me and asked, “Mom, do you have cancer?”
Blindsided for the umpteenth time this week, I simply and instinctively answered “No” and doled out the hugs again. Has he been working up the nerve to ask me this question for a week now? And does he even really understand what cancer means?
God, I love those kids. Everyone’s been asking what they can do for me … because you’re all awesome, by the way … and here’s my answer. Help me keep this week (and this holiday season, for that matter) as completely normal for them as possible. And maybe say a little prayer for them that their fears be quelled and nerves settled.
Me? I will be fine. I promised both of my kids so I have to do it now.