Dirty Details of Cancer

Being honest with my children about cancer

The minute a child sees you keeping secrets from them, they will always keep secrets from you. They are so full of innocent trust that will hopefully turn into faith… as long as they can see that honesty from you.

My thinking is this: I literally cooked them up, why would I keep things from them? They are my best friends. If I can’t be honest with my own children, then I’m lying to myself. And, it seems like it would be exhausting trying to keep up with all the lies. Do you know how kids remember EVERYTHING?

I do not want them to grow up and find out they weren’t told the truth. That is an awful feeling that I myself, may never get over because my childhood was mostly lies. Looking back on how I was treated as a child, makes me feel so belittled and disrespected. Little things like Santa and the tooth fairy are bad enough, but keeping the important things from them will make them untrusting, angry adults. I know first hand. And no, we don’t do the Santa or tooth fairy thing. We go along with it and give them a buck for a tooth, but they have always known it’s just a cartoon character like Mickey Mouse. They also understand that they cannot tell other kids they know this, in case a parent is really thick into the Santa stuff. I personally like them to know where the gifts came from, not give a make-believe person the credit. My life is too short to not enjoy the moments of gratitude. I don’t get to give my kids much, so I can’t see not telling them who it’s from. And it’s just one more thing I would have lied to them about. I was lied to constantly as a child so I do not feel that making them believe in these make-believe characters should be part of growing up. The feeling of betrayal is deep. Very deep.

My existence as a parent is to make sure they are strong enough for the real world in all aspects. Something as small as understanding that the world doesn’t revolve around anyone, to understanding something as big as fighting cancer with their mother. How do I do this and give them a normal life? It’s been damn near impossible, and I am going to stop trying to give them normalcy. This just ain’t normal. And I can’t paint a normal picture for them while telling the honest truth. And to put up a wall as far as communication when it’s hard enough to communicate with them when they are older as teens? So, why?

They need to see that sometimes it’s not easy to be honest, but that lying makes a person less trustworthy. The less trustworthy you are, the more likely you will be a very lonely person. And lying to me makes me run for hills so it’s just not accepted.

One lie = One Chance = Bye bye

I’ve been lied to by several people over the last couple of months. And I’ve even had people pose as foundations and use my name and picture to make money that I never saw. My kids know all about it. I told them that even though I’m an adult and I should have known better, sometimes people pull where it hurts the most. And then it happened AGAIN. They approach cancer patients, promise them help and then I never see them again. The foundations were bogus but still running like real foundations because they were still paying taxes and still recruiting more and more patients to make money on. I’ve been a victim of this 3 times now. Another reason why I feel that honesty is super important for my kids to grasp. I need a little honesty from the world right now. People trying to take advantage, and now the elected president will make it impossible to continue seeing my oncologist. Will have to get 4th rate care from a little po-dunk place 2 and half hours from my house because they will be the only place to accept and treat me.

What is obvious to an adult is just not obvious to a child. Having a shorter timeline, I just have an overwhelming feeling that I need to make sure they have some actual common sense. I don’t want someone to take advantage of them solely because they haven’t been around the block. Being that I’ve been honest with my kids about my cancer and treatment, why not go ahead and be honest about life? I don’t sugar coat any of my answers, but I also don’t add my two cents. When they ask a question, I give them a general answer and let them ask more questions. Then they can determine from there.

They ask me questions like:

Will you be here when I graduate high school?

Will you see me get married?

Will you see your grand kids?

Will you be able to go back to MD Anderson next year? How will you get treatment?

Will the president send your oncologist back to Pakistan and your radiation oncologist back to Japan?

Yes folks, they ask these questions and my heart breaks so hard. And can you imagine if I told them lies about it all, instead of the truth? The last feeling in the world I want them to have, is that their mother could have lived but she didn’t have the money. Or, my mother would have seen me graduate today if she hadn’t been denied her treatment. When they look back they need to remember the letters from the government saying that my care was being terminated in a little over a month due to the elected president. This will be history to remember: The Healthcare genocide. They will know what everyone is talking about when it’s brought up in the future.

I know being open and honest with my kids about everything, will make them a little more aware in the real world. And I know I am doing them a huge favor by not sugar-coating reality. Don’t get me wrong, they don’t get to watch anything that isn’t age appropriate and I don’t even let them have their devices on school days. But if they ask, I’m going to explain the truth the way I know they will understand. They need to know that the only person they can rely on is themselves, do not put your life in others hands expecting to get anywhere in life.

My oldest son was 5 years old and 2 weeks into his first year of elementary school, when I told him I had cancer. He had just been to two funerals within that month, both of which were cancer related. He had a hard time with seeing his Aunts being laid to rest. He was quiet for a long time after. So when his mother came to him with this news, of course it was very difficult to hear. We cried and held each other for hours and finally cried ourselves to sleep. And from then on, he has been very concerned about my health and wants to know what the doc said when I go to treatment. He is always asking how I feel and tells me how inspired he is to find a cure. He is even growing and donating his hair! But he is very upset that I am sick and always says how unfair our life is. And he is completely right. He didn’t ask for this and really isn’t fair to him. He is so smart and I know he will be very successful at whatever he does with his life. Just wish his growing up wasn’t such a drag with a sick mother who can’t afford to take them places or buy them what they want. Not everything, but just something.

Now the baby is another story. He only knows me as sick. So he doesn’t know me before cancer like my older child does. The little one is such a cuddly little guy and such a pleaser. Wants to make sure everyone is happy and he will do whatever it takes to make you feel better. Growing up knowing mom is sick has made him a very in tune little guy. When I was going through my first year of treatment, I was not allowed to hold him due to transference. We had to kind of re-bond our relationship in the second year of treatment. Now we are in the 7th year of treatment and we are closer than ever.

So yes, they know everything. No secrets. And I hope they will keep that in their hearts long after I’m gone.

Thanks for reading and for your support!

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