Being diagnosed with breast cancer is devastating and to have to find answers to your child’s questions can be heartbreaking.
First of all, should you tell your child you have breast cancer?
This is a tough question and there’s no right or wrong answer, but keep in mind what type of treatment you’ll be taking and the effects it will have on your physical appearance.
Tailor the answers to the age of the child. For a younger child, it isn’t necessary to go into details. Even for an older child, depending on their maturity level, deep details aren’t necessary. It really doesn’t matter how old the child is because even as grown adult children will find it hard to digest. You know your child the most and protecting them is what moms do best. Sometimes the less information the better until you yourself know more.
If you decide to tell your child you’re very sick without mentioning the words breast cancer and they see what you’re going through, remember they may think if they get very sick, they might experience the same thing as you.
Here are some common questions a child may ask and answers that may help ease their fears and unknowns
Why did this happen to you; what did you do wrong and is it my fault?
(It’s quite simple for a child to understand that if they do something wrong there are consequences. They know if they lie, they will be disciplined or something will be taken away and they’ll feel bad. However, it is important that they know they had NOTHING to do with it.)
A: We don’t know what causes breast cancer, but there are certain risk factors that increase the chances. The next thing that is working in their heads is if they did something bad to cause it. Let them know as well, even though there are risk factors, some people will never get it.
Can I get breast cancer from you?
A: Breast cancer isn’t contagious and we can hug and cuddle as much as you want.
Are you going to die?
(It’s another heart wrenching question and an uncertain one.)
A: There are doctors and special cancer doctors that’ll make sure they’ll do everything possible to help me get better.
Will you look different?
A: I’ll look different for a while when I’m going through chemotherapy treatments. My hair will most likely fall out. I’ll throw up a lot because the medicine will make me sick and it’ll make me very tired. I may have a hard time eating because the strong medicine causes sores in my mouth.
If I have a (or double) mastectomy, I may lose a part or a whole breast and I’ll look flat or uneven on one or both sides, but there’s another surgery a doctor can do to reconstruct my breast’s.
Can you still look after us and how is Daddy going to take care of us when he’s working?
A: Yes, I can still take care of you except when the medicine makes me sick. There’ll be other people too like grandma and grandpa, aunties, uncles and friends that will help out.
When will you get better?
A: When the cancer is all gone. I have x amount of treatments and the treatments will end on this date. I won’t be well right away, but each day I’ll get stronger and stronger.
What happens if it comes back; will it come back?
A: There’s a chance it will come back and the doctors will be watching me closely to make sure it doesn’t come back.
There will be other questions your child may ask during your treatment and progress and it’ll only help them understand and ease the uncertainties. You can help them understand by explaining to them ahead of time what to expect.
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