Gotta keep on keepin' on.......

Cancer again...that's 3 times in 2 years. This time it’s not breast cancer, but a new one called squamous cell carcinoma. New cancer, same old fighting spirit! My blog is still named for one of many songs that kept me going the first time around. Driving home from an upsetting appointment, I turned on the radio just as this line from Steve Miller Band's Jet Airliner was playing: "I've got to keep on keepin' on"....so I did just that. And I'll do it again.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

what about the children?

At a church dinner a few weeks ago, one of the members approached me and began consoling me. She was devastated to hear my news of the second cancer, she said, and she was praying for me. Naturally I thanked her and we chatted a little. She asked lots of questions about the cancer and I answered them as best as I could. The only problem? This all happened in front of the children. It was a sit-down dinner and Emma was seated right next to me. I knew she was picking up on the seriousness of the situation.

At 8 years and the oldest of our 4 children, Emma is very observant, very sensitive. Even last year, before we told her about the first breast cancer, she knew something was going on.

Emma overheard the woman's questions, and I know her ears perked up. So when I say that I answered the questions "as best I could" I meant I tried to make the situation sound like a "no biggie"....we'll just go in and scoop out the cancer, and that's the end of it. That's pretty much how we explain it to the kids. (Eventually, I know, we'll have to explain to them why Mommy looks like a walking billboard, since her breasts....even the right one, which had no cancer....are completely gone. But they're not ready for that kind of detail, so "scooping out the cancer" suffices for now!)

Anyway, back at the church dinner, this very sweet woman left me with more kind words, and she choked up as she said, "Oh I just get so upset, thinking about your beautiful children. What will happen to them?"

What will happen to them?????

Please, please, please, if you ever take anything away from my blog, please remember to watch your conversations with your cancer friends! Don't act like they're going to keel over any minute! Don't corner them with their children within earshot! You don't know how much the kids know or don't know.

In our family, we're honest with our children and give them information according to what they can comprehend. For example, when I started chemo last year, rather than freak them out by saying Mommy's hair was going to fall out, we told them that the chemo would make my hair hurt so much that I'd have to cut it short. (It fell out later, but they were so used to my crewcut that it wasn't very shocking or exciting.) Also, we called chemo "strong medicine" and radiation "Suzy Sunshine" and tried to make cancer as fun as it could be by letting them put tattoos on my bald head or use my head for a bongo. We put our best spin on the situation, and they seemed to breeze through the year with no trauma.

Fortunately, Emma didn't hear the woman's "what about the children" comment. Or maybe she did. One Saturday later, as I drove her to her softball game, she said, very matter-of-factly, "Mommy, I don't want to grow up with just a daddy."

So I know she's thinking about this, and she grasps the concept very well.

I assured her that I didn't intend to die from cancer. (In fact, way on down the road when I die of something else like natural causes, a Mack truck encounter, or a vanilla-latte-and-Cinnabon-overdose, I want my obit to state very specifically "Cancer did NOT kill her." And don't get me started on "her battle with cancer", I can't stand that concept!)

But in the car that Saturday morning with my serious-minded first-born girl, I told her that while some people do die from cancer, I did not plan to be one of them. "That is why my doctors want to do surgery for me," I explained, "to get it all out. And maybe I'll do some chemo afterwards if the doctors think that's the best thing for me. I'll do whatever it takes, to make sure I am here for you. I don't want you to grow up with just a daddy either."

That seemed to satisfy her. Emma talked a little about the other options the doctors might consider, like more Suzy Sunshine.

And then the conversation moved on to other things, like Mommy, can I still do cheerleading this year? And when can I get a bra, all my friends wear one (she's been begging since the summer, although if she develops like I did she won't need one until she's about 15!)

So I knew things were good in her 8-year-old world, for a little longer at least. I will do whatever it takes. And I hope she remembers that.

1 Comments:

  • At 10/3/07, 12:25 PM, Blogger Sherry Smyth said…

    KT, this disease is hard on us, but it is even harder when we have children that are part of our world. Mine were 13 and 17 when I was diagnosed and it was still the most difficult conversation I have ever had to have. My heart certainly goes out to you in this. Even at 13, my youngest son was adamant that he didn't want to grow up with just daddy. It seems to be a theme with children.
    As for your acquaintance at Church, it still amazes me how people speak before they think and the comments that fly from their mouths.
    We have a neighbour who did that to my 17 year old...asked him if I was going to live. Up until that point he had been handling things very well but that put him over the edge. He was firm with her, told her how strong I am and that I will indeed beat this. But to put something this serious on a child's plate or even to do so within their hearing distance is beyond thoughtless.
    I think the way you handled this with Emma was beautiful.
    I hope you are continuing to recuperate and feeling stronger each day.

     

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