Monday, January 06, 2014

When Truth is Not Absolute

Jason and I adamantly believe in being honest with the kids. No matter how difficult or awkward the question, we always strive to answer in a straight-forward and age appropriate way. This includes all topics, from Santa Claus to where babies come from. (Side note - like most kids of his age, Zander has this fascinating ability to simultaneously believe in something and know that it is imaginary. He knows that Jason and I fill his Christmas stocking, but he also believes that Santa is real.) (Side side note - when I was pregnant with the girls, I prepared an explanation about where babies come from, complete with gardening analogies. Two-year-old Zander was totally disinterested.)

So how do you tackle telling kids their mom has cancer?

Mom, is Casper the Ghost real?
No, he is a character in a story.

We told them that I am sick, with a big sickness that requires some really big medicine. And sometimes that medicine makes me feel really tired and crummy. We told them that it is a sickness that takes a lot of work to get rid of, and that the doctors are doing everything they can to fix it.

This is, essentially, the truth.

Mom, are ghosts real?
No. ...but some people think spirits are real.

I haven't gone into the whole horrible prognosis of this disease with the kids, largely because I don't really accept it as absolute truth myself. There are people who have lived with this disease for many years. Who is to say I'm not going to be one of them? How would learning the meaning of the word "terminal" now help these small beings deal with an enormous grief that may not happen until quite a ways down the road?

Yeah... Some people believe ... that if someone you love very much dies, that person's spirit can come back and visit. You won't be able to see or touch, but you may sense this loved one.
But is that real?
...some people think so....

I do not accept that my future is a foregone conclusion. I cling to hope and all the possibilities that hide in the unknown.

I'm still expecting my deus ex machina in Act V.


Beth said...

The night we got the bad news from the surgeon that my cancer was inoperable, we called our daughter's therapist from the train station, before we even got on the train home. He said that because of our daughter's age, there was no need to tell her my prognosis. To a 7-year-old, he said, discussing what might or might not happen eight months from now is like discussing with an adult what might or might not happen in ten years.

Later on, we did tell her that people can die from cancer, and that the doctors wanted me to take stronger medicine because the medicine I could get near home wasn't helping me enough. We felt like we had to tell her this much because, ironically, with the great ROS1 news, there was a lot more conversation around the house about how much bleaker my prognosis HAD been. We realized she was overhearing just enough to be really scared and confused, and needed more information.

Lil-Lytnin said...

It is comforting to know that my impulse to avoid discussing the prognosis was the "right" thing to do, according to a professional. The idea of prognosis is so strange to me. Who can be sure what is to come?

KOB said...

I don't have kids but wanted to share this book written for parents who have metastatic cancer.

it's called "The Cancer That Wouldn't Go Away"

Lil-Lytnin said...

Thank you so much for suggesting this book. It sounds really interesting, I'll check it out.