Sunday, 16 September 2012

Things you should never have to deal with with your children: 1) bury them; 2) tell them you have cancer

Saturday is also the day I have to tell my children. DS won't really get it, although he will understand that Mummy's not around for a bit, and I don't see any point in not explaining why. I don't know how much DD will understand - she's bright, but hasn't been close to anyone whilst they've been in hospital before.

We all sit in bed having pre-breakfast drinks, as is normal if we have a weekend day that allows a late start, and use the family cuddle time to explain what's happening. No tears, no drama, just very simply that Mummy has something growing in the tube that makes your poo that shouldn't be there, that she needs to go to the hospital to have it cut out and that the doctor will make it better, but that Mummy will be in hospital for a few days. Daddy and TN (The Nanny) will be around just as usual, and when TN goes on holiday, grandparents will be around.

DS asks, "Is Mummy going to hospital?", and goes back to playing with his cars when he gets an affirmative answer. DD goes quiet - not a good sign (she thinks that if she stops responding to people when there's trouble, it will go away). DH pushes the point, asking if she understands, and gets stonewalled. Eventually I intervene - she is clearly affected by the news and I don't see any point in pushing it further. We give her lots of reassurance about who will be around and making Mummy better, but it's Octonauts (UK children's TV programme) on the iPad that finally changes her mood.

She doesn't mention it again until she and I are walking back from the supermarket the following day. Outside the supermarket are some people collecting for the local hospice and DD asks what a hospice is. I explain that it's where people who need lots of medical help go so that they and their families can have a rest. I don't mention the dying bit, despite normally having a policy of being open and honest with her (thankfully we haven't had any, "Where do babies come from?" questions. Yet.), because I don't want to go down that thought trail and anyway I don't have cancer really. And I'm certainly not going to die from it. She follows up with a host of questions about what's happening to me: will it hurt? (yes, but the doctors will give me medicine to help), what's it called? (cancer), can I come and see you in hospital? (yes). I tell her that it's nothing she's done and she can't catch it because it's not germs that make this happen - that these are things that worry children is something I have picked up from the Macmillan website during my wee small hours web crawling. She puts her small hand in mine and we walk home together, talking about the new school term that's about to start.

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