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,...

Breast cancer survivor: My 7-year-old’s quest to end cancer

My husband and I have always taught our children to find the good in everything, even if they can’t see it at that moment. But I was still surprised when I found a plastic baggie in my elder son Brayden’s room a few weeks before Halloween. He’d scribbled “$ for MD Andrson” on it and put a dollar bill and a few pennies inside. When I asked him about it, Brayden said he was collecting money he’d found on the ground or gotten from friends to give to the hospital. “If my mama was never diagnosed with cancer, I wouldn’t be able to help other parents,” he told me. “I don’t want other kids to have to go through this. So we need to end cancer.” How my breast cancer journey motivated my son I was diagnosed with BRCA2+, HER2+ stage III breast cancer in January at age 28. At the time, my biggest fear was that the kids would be negatively affected by it. Instead, Brayden has turned my cancer diagnosis into an opportunity to help others, and I am so proud of him. When my son first mentioned his idea, he was only six (Brayden turned 7 on Dec. 2, 2017), so, I thought, “He’s not going to make anything of this. He’s going to ask a few people for money, then get tired of it and put his can away.” But while we were making our trick-or-treating plans, he asked, “Mommy, do you think I could collect money at houses, too?” I worried people would judge him or question our motives, so I polled my friends...