Raising a Small Child During Cancer

When I was diagnosed with stage three triple negative breast cancer my daughter was six years old. Despite my having multiple preventative surgeries due to having the BRCA1 gene I still got breast cancer. I had endured a double mastectomy with reconstruction, had multiple revisions due to multiple infections (and a terrible plastic surgeon), and a full hysterectomy. I wanted to spare my family the pain of me getting cancer yet here I was. My husband and I discussed how we would approach our daughter with this diagnosis. I wanted to be honest because I believe in being honest with children. We would be open, and make the best efforts to keep a sense of normality for her. Well a week into treatment and COVID hit! 

My husband was luckily at home as his work closed. He took her out constantly to play tennis, or go to the beach together. Thankfully in Florida we had the ability to do so. I took chemotherapy pretty hard at times having two drugs every week plus a newly approved one every three weeks. My nausea was out of control, and I struggled like many with keeping my composure. I remember a bad day not leaving my bed, and feeling lonely as I heard them in the next room. I called them into the room, and told them I was having a hard time. My husband tossed our daughter onto the bed , and he climbed in too so they could be with me. It meant the world. On really tough days he had her bring my meals to me. She was proud to be a help, carefully placing my food on the edge of the bed with a smile. One day I was so sick I couldn't get up from the bathroom floor. When my daughter came to see me I sent her away ashamed for her to see me that way. Then I realized how frightening that must be. I called her back, and managed to give her a big hug. I told her the drugs made me sick but they made the cancer sick too. 

I realize that everyone has a different way of parenting. I am not telling anyone how to handle their own situation. I only wanted to share my story because I know I am not the only one with little kids. My daughter learned compassion, strength, and perserverance. Most of all she learned about standing by those we love through the toughest of times.