Breast cancer survivor: How I talked to my kids about cancer

When I was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer in January 2017, my biggest fear was how my kids would be affected. My husband and I told our three young children right away. But we were really apprehensive about what to say, so we spoke first with Traci Newsome, a social work counselor at MD Anderson in the Bay Area. Traci emphasized the importance of using the word “cancer” rather than “sick,” to keep those concepts separate in young children’s minds. Otherwise, they might think someone needs chemotherapy just because they have the flu. She also said to be sure to say “MD Anderson” rather than just “hospital,” so the kids would know I was going someplace special to treat my disease. Explanations: Keep them simple The baby was too young to really understand anything yet, but we tried to keep our explanations simple. We told our older children that doctors had found a spot of disease called cancer in my right breast. We explained that chemotherapy and radiation were types of treatment that could make me better and that surgery would take the cancer out of my body. It was hard to make a 4- and 5-year-old understand that something which would ultimately help me get better (chemotherapy) would also make me feel really bad at first. And we knew it would be hard for them to watch me struggling. But we tried to give the kids something positive to focus on. We told them that once my treatment was done, we’d all go on vacation together and they could pick the destination. They picked Disneyworld, of course,...