ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to talk to your children about having breast cancer

Updated on October 6, 2015
From Mummy Had an Owie by Elizabeth (Liza) Miles published 2008
From Mummy Had an Owie by Elizabeth (Liza) Miles published 2008 | Source

Facing the diagnosis

In 2004 I found a lump in my left breast. I just knew it was cancer . My heart raced. After a deep breathe my brain finally engaged and I said aloud - "I am a mum my children are little and I am not ready to die. This lump has got to go."

The girls and I were on a work related camping trip supporting mothers struggling with addiction and FASD, so going to my doctor was not an option for the next few days.

I managed to hold things together emotionally and no one knew what was going on in the back of my mind. By the time I got back to Victoria my breast was beginning to hurt and they say cancer doesn't. This convinced my doctor that it was a cyst. The pain coming from swelling due to my period. I knew he was wrong - I know my body well.

I had been feeling quite tired and under the weather for a while but I put that down to being a single mum and working at a rewarding but stressful job. I had also moved into an old house so my parents who had moved to Canada from England on temporary visas could live with us because they were struggling financially to live on their own. There was a lot of stress and financial pressure.

I went to the hospital for the mammogram and biopsy alone - that was a mistake and, if you are facing a possible cancer diagnosis, I strongly urge you to take someone with you. The doctor looked concerned during the biopsy and a specialist was called. My heart sank.

Later sitting with my GP who confirmed the diagnosis I experienced a sense of urgency to cut the ********lump out so I could get on with my life and raising the girls who were ages 5 and almost 7.

Telling your family

Front and center of my thoughts was not the cancer, I knew after a mastectomy I would be OK, I just believed that, my thoughts were concerned with my children. We had already been through the trauma of a separation when they were a lot younger and I knew that handling this was even more important . It had to be done honestly, sensitively and bravely.

Depending on the age of your children being honest with them must also be age appropriate. I told the girls that I had an owie, because that was the language they understood. I explained that I had a lump in my breast and that to be healthy I was going to have it removed. I used lots of hugs and kept the conversations short - sharing information as they asked questions and reassuring them if they needed that. I was always very positive and let them know that it was serious but that I was strong and the doctors and nurses were going to help me get better.

Keeping structure and routine was very important and helped the girls feel safe. When I needed to release my feelings I made sure to do that after they were in bed and I am so thankful for the friends who allowed me to just let it all go.

The cancer patient receives a lot of attendtion and it is so important that we, as the patient and as supporters, recognize what the children are experiencing. Otherwise they will be left confused, frightened and bewildered. Naming their feelings and letting them know they are OK and quite normal is the best way to support them and the patient.

With older children and teens using the medical words to describe the diagnosis would be best. Even though they were young I did still tell the girls the medical words such as mammogram (which they turned into mumyogram:-)) and mastectomy. I had them draw pictures of us as a family and all the fun things we liked to do and would be able to do after I was made better.

The night before surgery was very hard on my oldest daughter. She was almost seven and wanted to sleep with me. She went to sleep, after crying in my arms. That was certainly my darkest hour. I wrote both girls a letter telling them how important and loved they were which they were given when they were woken up by my mum.


After surgery

When I came home I lencouraged lots of activities that we could do together on the couch. I had a drainage tube and was very sore and tender. Keeping the girls in their routine, having friends take them for play dates and the support of my parents made the recovery process so much easier. Keeping an open dialogue with the girls and asking them to tell me about their day, make drawings for me and help with making dinner brought us all closer through this horrible experience.

In 2008 I wrote a short book from the perspective of my daughters about the experience to assist young children of other mothers who are facing breast cancer. Mummy Had an Owie no longer has its own website but I would be happy to send you a copy on request to my email at liza.miles1@gmail.com


Mummy Had an Owie 2008 provides support for young children, tips for activities and discussions about breast cancer.
Mummy Had an Owie 2008 provides support for young children, tips for activities and discussions about breast cancer.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Lizam1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lizam1 

      6 years ago from Scotland

      Susan, I realized that I included reference to you on my recent hub without asking - I do hope that was OK. Thank you for your story.

    • Lizam1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lizam1 

      6 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you Susan I am very happy for you to share the link on your hubs. Look forward to reading your hubs.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you for sharing your story. I am a 20 breast cancer survivor. My twins were only 2 when I had my second mastectomy and I recall feeling the same way as you. All I wanted to do was live, and see them grow up. I told them that I had to have surgery and tried to explain it to them. But with them being only 2 it was a bit difficult for them to comprehend. It's wonderful that you've published a book about how to do this. I have several hubs written on breast cancer and if you don't mind I would like to link your hub onto my hubs.

      Welcome to HubPages.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)