Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mission Accomplished

I've written that when I first heard the word "malignancy" my first thoughts were "I'm going to die" and "How does one live without a tongue?" My next thought was, "How the hell am I going to tell my kids?" I have two daughters: Progeny the Elder is nine and Progeny the Younger is seven.

I googled that question, and the top hit was this page at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute right here in Boston. It contains excellent advice.

The first piece of advice is: calm down. You don't need to tell them this minute. Wait until you have had some time to adjust and achieve some peace. Then give a lot of thought to what you will say and what your goals are. Then have the talk with your kids.

When it came to specifics, the first couple of things wouldn't have occurred to me:

  1. Assure your kids that they didn't cause the cancer.
  2. Assure them that cancer is not contagious.

Then it gets to the hardest question of all, "Are you going to die?"

Of course that question from them was foremost in my mind and seemed terrifying to face. But the page gave an excellent suggested answer:

"I am not dying now. I am going to take strong medicine and/or have surgery to get rid of my cancer. I will be checked often by the doctors."

Ah. I can handle that.

Wonderful Wife and I are strong believers in being truthful with our kids about any topic. The trick is telling them the truth in a way that satisfies their curiosity but doesn't burden them with information they aren't ready for yet.

So. In my last post I described the call I received from Doctor B with the pathology results. Wonderful Wife happened to be on a rare Girls' Night Out when I got the call, and I was putting the progeny to bed. I texted her the news and she was elated. Not too much later she arrived home. The progeny were still awake. I decided to sieze the moment of relief and tell the girls while we were in a positive mood.

We did it perfectly. Exactly like I wanted it to go. We didn't avoid the word "cancer", but we also didn't treat the word as though it had a lot of power. It was just a fact.

We covered the important bases: The doctors will give me strong medicine that will make me sicker before I get better. I might lose my hair and get skinny.

Progeny the Elder cannot stand to see or hear people vomit. She asked if the medicine was going to make me hurl. "Maybe," we said. She cringed. "But they have medicine that will help me not hurl."

And that was it! The progeny are informed but not (too) scared. Exactly what we wanted. We give ourselves a Gold Star.

Thank you for the web page, Dana Farber. It was just what we needed.

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