The effects of cancer and my kids
Caner affects everyone, even our children. When I was diagnosed I tried to remain calm and moved forward and quickly meeting with doctors every few weeks, getting tests and basically surrended my life to cancerland. Forrest and I have always been open with our kids, open to each of their levels of course. So on day number two we talked with our four kids about mommy having something called cancer. We explained that our body was made out of cells and I had some bad cells in my body and the doctors were going to cut them out by surgery. We explained that after surgery I would be in a bed for a little bet getting better. That was in March. This was when the fog came over our house and began to thicken day by day.
We believed life was still normal in their world. But as we look back now after the heavy fog begins to lift we see that nothing was normal in their world, and we can now see clearly the effects of cancer and my children.
The changes may have been suttle at first… I stopped working part time, too many apointments and phone calls kept me from being the teacher I needed to be. I stopped going into my first graders classroom each Tuesday. Grandma was over a lot, cleaning our kitchen, even though I was very capable before my first surgery, but this was her way of helping. My father in law then began taking my kids to school in the morning and picking them up, this was my job but after my first surgery I could not drive for awhile.
You know your kids pick up things when your 2.5 year old say”Mommy going to Doctors?” If I left the house.
Family was shuffling the kids around to house to house while Forrest took care of me. Meals were being dropped off and adults would stop me and ask how I was. Our world was no longer normal, even though we tried and thought we were doing our best to keep their worlds the same but now moving out of cancerland we see that we made some huge mistakes.
Before cancer hit our family for the past two years we were dealing with a family trauma so deep and so overwhelming that it consumed our lives. It was a event so devestating to one of my children, that caused trauma to the brain causing major sleep issues, called Central sleep apnea. Central is when the brain would send signals to the lungs causing my child to stop breathing at night. We spent many nights doing sleep studies and for over a year and a half it was though we had a constant newborn in the home. We were very sleep deprived… which means constant stess for all.
This was our world before cancer, really up until August of 2008, when my child had a major break through and release a lot of pain through play therapy. That moment, that day will be forever marked in my mind… as shaken as I was, it was the turning point for my child… from that day forward my child was new, fresh and so joyful. The sleep issues were gone, waking up rested for not only my child but for Forrest and I. It was a miracle… for so long we were dealing with a sleep deprived child with anger that would overflow at any moment at anything.
Who would have known that soon after my diagnosis it would set the pattern off again… so began the sleepless nights, the anger that we thought was gone was begininning to show it’s ugly face. Like any of us, who goes nights and nights without rem would eventually act… exhausted with a short fuse.
In the midst of everything…. we could not see it happening. We were living day to day, doctor apointment to apointment then surgery to surgery. But right before my bilateral mastectomy it came to my attention in a dramatic way. My child had a major breakdown…. attacking a child and then attacking me. As I dragged my child to the car… I began to cry… this way way too much… I can’t do this I thought… I can’t go back down this road… I can’t loose my child again!
To be honest… I had breast issues and pain all of 2008, I knew something may be terribly wrong… but I also knew that I needed to help my child.. I needed to get my child better before I could deal with me…. stupid on one hand but looking back I know I could not have dealt with cancer as well.
Two weeks after my last surgery we began play therapy again for my child. The therapist began to tell us that this diagnosis is as traumatizing as the previous trauma and that though you try to keep life normal it is not.
By session number two… we saw the problem… it was the cancer…. He acted out a surgery on me all while playing mr. patatoe head…. since that day which was two weeks ago he has slept all night long! he stopped sleeping again due to the worry and not knowing details about my surgeries. He made things up in his mind…. as kids do. So that night we told the whole story about what happened to mommy…. to all of my children.
Behaviors like quick to anger, back talk, accidents all have affected my children. Each one quietly suffering on their own. The fog has lifted and I heal it is time to have them each heal as well.
Why I write this today is to show you I failed my children. I thought I was open by telling them I had cancer and would have surgery. But it was not the whole truth…
All my kids saw was mom in bed, or mom at the doctors.. they could not hug mom, dad was helping mom… aunts were getting them dressed… grandpa was taking them to school…. mom was sick….
Learn from my mistake…. we sat our kids down and explained each operation, we told them that my breasts were removed and that now they are going to make me new ones. That I was better and that we were so sorry for not telling them everything. That was all it took… us explaining things to them… they are all now doing great… I am here now… I am no longer in bed… I am starting to give hugs again… I am driving them to school and I am going to be here for a long time beging their mom!
So the moral to this post is to be open with your children…. my kids are 8, 7, 5 and 3. Cancer creates an upside world for those of you living with it… out of respect to our kids may we allow them into our world, not protect them. It is with us thinking that we are protecting them that causes them harm… they can handle more than we know. It shows love that we bring them in and talk to them openly giving them back some control that cancer can take away.