cancer and young children

Hi i was diagnosed with breast cancer in both breasts in early january just two days before i gave birth to my youngest daughter.Talk about an emotional rollercoaster!Everything then happened so fast and I started A/C chemo eight days after she was born.Even my doctors didnt see my diagnosis coming as Im 24 years old and one of my lumps was originally diagnosed as a fibrodenama (think i spelt that wrong sorry!)

Anyway I also have an older girl whos nearly four and I worry about the affect of all this on her.I have been as honest as possible with her telling her Mummy has a bad lump in her boobs and the doctors are giving me medicine to get rid of it.Touch wood I have’nt been too sick with the chemo so I’ve been able to carry on as pretty normal except for all the hospital visits.Shes very sensitive though and like myself doesnt always say what shes thinking.She gets upset but doesnt like talking about why she is upset and I worry about what shes thinking.I feel so guilty for putting her through all this.If theres anyone whos in or was in a similiar situation Id love to know how they dealt with it.Thanx xx

Hi Rosie and welcome to the BCC forums,

I am sorry to read about your diagnosis and subsequent concerns, I am sure your fellow users will be along soon with support for you, in addition please feel free to call our helpline on 0808 800 6000. The line is open weekdays 9-5 and Sat 9-2 and our team are here for you.

I am posting links to a couple of publications about talking to your children about breast cancer and also to further support you may wish to access specifically aimed at younger women with breast cancer:*/changeTemplate/PublicationDisplay/publicationId/21/*/changeTemplate/PublicationDisplay/publicationId/21/

Take care

Hi Rosie, congratulations on your new baby. Sorry you find yourself here, instead of the sort of baby-orientated sites you expected to be using at this stage. Thinking how emotional I have been round the births of my three, I can’t imagine how you are coping; it sounds like you are doing brilliantly.
My situation is different to yours, but my youngest was 5 last year when I was diagnosed. A friend gave me ‘Mummy’s Lump’ to read to her, which I think is fairly standard stuff. It helped to make it more ‘normal’ though for her, I think. In some ways she has been fine, because at 5, she had no preconceptions about ‘cancer.’ I could have said I had flu, or chicken pox. But as time has gone on, I think she has picked up on some of the inevitable anxiety that surrounds us at the moment. She has developed some anxieties, and is not always able to express them, so they have manifested themselves as irrational fears. I don’t know whether she would have had these fears anyway, but I do blame the BC. I say the BC, but, we all know as mums, what we actually do is blame ourselves, but I try very hard not to. I think that is probably the single most important thing you can do, for you, and your children, to not feel responsible for bringing breast cancer into their lives.
I would say too, don’t over-analyse things - very often we project worries onto our kids, when in fact they are not faintly concerned, and had not been worried about something, until we sat them down with an anxious expression, and MADE them worried! And there are other times when the opposite happens, and you have not anticipated something that they are freaked out about!
I hope you are ok, and that this helps. There are a lot of young mothers on this site, I’m sure someone will come along with some personal experience to help you,


So sorry you are in this situation. I was dx in march last year when my children were 2 and 4. Since then I have had two ops Chemo rads and am now on herceptin. Dealing with children is as individual as hey are. I found it really beneficial to access a family counsellor through my Macmillan nurse( you gp can refer you to Macmillan) the counsellor listened to my fears about the children, advised me on how to tackle hair lose, anxiety and how it’s shows itself in small children. She was also able to liase with nursery and school about how to help the children if it was needed.
Everyone is different but I told my daughter( 4 ) that it was cancer and explained about the op and the strong medicine. They were fine about my hair loss and because they were prepared. I could go on and on. Please pm me if you want specific questions answered. It’s a year on now and we just did the five mile challenge for bcc as a family today. They loved and, and I have huge blisters. : )

Good luck and congratulations on the your baby.



I have 3-year-old twins, I was diagnosed with breast cancer a month ago and started chemo in 11 March. Everything happened so quickly and I’ve been so busy with hospital appointments that I haven’t found the time to get much advice or counselling. My boy has been very difficult since I started the chemo. I think part of it is due to the fact that the grandparents have come to help (first my in-laws and now my parents) and because they leave far they’re staying with us. I think he finds these changes very difficult. I’m just telling myself that we do need the help and he needs to adapt to the situation but in practice it is very hard to deal with a child as difficult as he has been. I am hoping that it’s just the first phase and that he’ll get used to it. We have mentioned to them that mummy has to take “BIG CALPOL” and that she doesn’t feel well afterwards for a few days. I am not sure if I should explain more to them, I fear that they’re too young to be told much, I worry that it’s going to make it worse for them. I’m not sure … your posts have now prompted me to get more advice.

Love the big calpol…may use that in the weeks and months to come !!! if you want to know my story,check newly diagnosed link and look for I cant believe it! I don’t have the emotional strength to tell it this morning!!! Jxxx

Hi Rosie28
My youngest was 3 when I was dx in 2008, eldest was 6. I also used the book ‘Mummy’s lump’ as mentioned by a previous poster. At first I couldn’t look at it with the children for fear of crying, and I delayed using it, but actually they loved it and found it helpful. When a friend was dx last year they asked to pass it on to her children because it had helped them. I also had a publiucation-I think it was BCC, something like ‘Talking to children about bc’-maybe the mods have given you a link already, but that was helpful.

It is really tough wondering how to deal with it with children, isn’t it, and you never know if you are doing it right. I felt quite inadequate with it all at times, but my mum reminded me I knew my children better than anyone, and that I could only do what I felt was best. I also spoke and listened to my very close friends-who I knew would be upfront when it came to my children.
I tried to be honest, but take my cue from them about what their real fears were as they came up, rather than anticipating them too much-and they often weren’t the things I thought they might be. I think the practical changes worried them, but as soon as they knew who would be looking after them/collecting them from school etc they were ok, even during some pretty tough times. Having a good support network, and speaking to the nursery/school helped us. It did mean I ended up telling people things at times I would rather not have, and had to field questions I wanted to avoid, but I think it helped things run smoothly for the children. Early on I remember psyching myself up because my eldest asked if he could ask me a question when I had been quite ill-and his main concern was could he still have sausages for tea that day! I found my 3 year old more accepting of my hair loss than the 6 year old. She helped me draw on eyebrows and nearly three years on that is the only thing she talks about in relation to my having cancer.
Take care, and as others have said, do pm me if you want to.
C x

Dear all,

Here is the link to the publication “Talking to children…” as mentioned by cupoftea.

Very best wishes

BCC facilitator

Hi all,

Just wondered whether anyone has had a similar problem to mine ? I was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer ten months after giving birth to my son. It has not been easy looking after such a young child and undergoing chemotherapy but it has helped that my partner is freelance so can be around during the day to look after our son. He has had to take over the role of caregiver and now bathes him, and gets him up in the morning and often takes him to the park as I don’t have the energy or means (i have numb, painful hands due to the side effects of the chemo) to do it myself. I now find that he doesn’t seem to want to be held by me anymore. Today I tried to pick him to give him a cuddle and he just cried until he was back in the arms of my partner. This has happened a number of times and I don’t know what to do about it. My oncologist (who is a woman) tells me not to worry as children change all the time and I’m going through all of this for him, but it makes me feel really rejected. It’s like he doesn’t remember that I’m his mother anymore. Has anyone else encountered this ??

hi i was just reading your post and can totally relate to you on your point about feeling rejected, your baby isnt rejecting you he is only responding to you in a different way, normally you would be the main person in your babies everyday life, but because your oh has taken over your baby is seeing him as number 1, i have experienced exactly the same thing only my children are older, i have a 12 year old daughter and 8 year old twins, boy and girl, my younger girl will cuddle me and stroke my head, my boy will have a cuddle but only if he thinks no one is around my elder daughter will have a cuddle, but more often than not will go do her dad for a love, or to talk to, i find that difficult and feel that at 12 she should be closer to me, i know you having a younger baby is different but i get totally where you are coming from i am sure once you get back to normal and you are able to do more for your baby things will be different, it is difficult with such a young baby, but you will be surprised i am sure everything will be fine love liz xxx

Hi chilli

i really feel for you and want to send you a huge boys are 5 and 3 now, and i was dx last march and had wle, chemo , rads. I just wanted to let you know that begore cancer ever raised its ugly head, my boys would sometimes seem to go off me and become daddys boys or grandma’s boys or grandads boys. At first it did upset me a lot until the pendulum swung back the other way and they loved mummy again. When i was diagnosed i was glad that firstly, i knew already my sons could be fickle and secondly that they had close bonds with other important family members for when i was unable to look after them properly. It must be cutting you like a knife but try not to let it ( easier said than done i know!) and maybe plan some special time with him when his daddy isnt around at all? If you feel up to it obviously!

I’m not sure what chemo you are/were on but taxotere knackered my fingers and toes and a month or so after i recall sobbing as i couldnt sew my boys name labels on his uniform and my mum had to do it. Stupid little thing but itmade me feel wretched. So i know howyou feel, but my fingers have improved to fully functionable and just a ting bit numb now, 7months on.


I’ve been reading this thread and can relate to all that has been said. I have two boys they were 5 and 7 when I was diagnosed last year. I am a Brit but live in Canada so no family close but get great support from family via phone and skype and friends here have been brilliant. But I have to say that one of the hardest things to cope with has been understanding how my boys were doing. We read all the books and followed their advice to be open but positive - didn’t make promises we couldn’t keep. We thought we had done reasonably well when my eldest was at a presentation in school when they were giving money they’d raised to a cancer charity (nothing to do with me). The woman collecting the money had had BC 7 years ago. Well my son insisted on going to see his younger brother to talk to him. He was so excited and hugged his brother and told him it would be alright. Here alot of cancer fundraising etc centers around Terry Fox, a young man who tried to run across Canada and died of cancer. They heard cancer and thought I was going to die. Apparently even though we explained things we didn’t do as well as we thought. This made us realise we didn’t understand how or what they were processing so we signed up for some family counselling at the cancer center. The kids loved it, meeting other kids with mums who had BC. All weirdly normal. They did a session with the kids on what cancer was, what it looked liked and how it grew and what the treatments tried to do. They showed them a picture of a cancer cell. For my boys this was what they needed. We weren’t in the session so they were able to ask questions. i guess it was at just the right level for them and it demystified it. It was a turning point for both but especially the 5 year old.

They still have their moments - we all sometimes get angry and frustrated but we are quicker to get back to ‘normal’ whatever that is.

The counselling wasn’t great at helping me sort out what is typical bad behaviour from 5 and 7 yr olds and what is due to the raised anxiety levels. We are working our way through that one still.

I don’t know about you but I find myself being the one who does the jobs - cooking, cleaning, washing etc. General clean up. My husband helps but I feel so grateful for all his help and support and am pleased that I am now able to do it I spend too much time doing and not playing. So my new years resolution was to take more time and to stop saying hurry up we are going to be late. I would be busy doing things that sometimes I was too tired to help put them to bed. I find it hard to take in that I can’t do everything but remembering that helps me to save some energy to do things with the boys. Giving myself time to get the energy and the confidence back that I needed to do things with them has been key.

The kids just need time. Mine have backed away from me too - when I was in treatment when they would wake up at night they called for me and then they started asking for their dad. My fingernails and toenails went with some of my chemo and I couldn’t tie their shoe laces - tors is right it is the little things and they are tough moments but they pass.

A BC friend told me not to take this personally and she was right. I think the advice to do something with your child is sound. it doesn’t have to be anything big - my boys love it when all of us do something together. When I am tired we sit on my bed and play cards when I have more energy we walk the dog or play games. Your are the mum and are loved. I know i found all the changes difficult - the kids must have done too except they probably don’t understand. I thought when I was ‘better’ things would go back to what they were. But were are all changed by this. My older son is beginning to struggle again as I am starting to go back to work - change for him has become more challenging but he is managing and we are still able to have a laugh. Just keep hanging in there, do something interesting and the kids will come along to see what is going on and they will join in without knowing. You will get there.

This post is way too long.

Good luck

Thanks liz, tors and dolly for your replies,

It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who has experienced this. I thought for a moment that maybe I was just being oversensitive. He’s 14 months old now so is more aware of both of us, but obviously still a baby really, so I guess I should just suppose that he will change as the situation does - when i get the chance to do more physical stuff with him. I have started trying to play with him during the day and also try to read and talk to him as much as possible. He’s fine if it’s just me, but when dad is around, he seems to prefer his company, but you’re right - it’s totally understandable if he’s the main caregiver.

Tors, I’m on taxotere (docetaxel) too and my fingers are so numb - it even hurts to type ! Am hoping it’s temporary. How did you cope with it ? I find it difficult even to get dressed in the mornings.

I guess I feel this way about my son because it’s my first (and unfortunately my last after this diagnosis) child so everything is so new right now. I have nothing to compare it too. And it’s true that it makes sense for my son to feel comfortable with other family members - it just feels sometimes that no sooner have I got to grips with the joys (and anxiety) of motherhood - it gets snatched away from me by having to deal with my illness.

But I’ll try not to take it personally and just focus on being around long enough to see him grow up.

Thanks again,

Chilli x

Hi Rosie,

I have 3 children who were 2,5 and 7 when I was diagnosed, I sat down with them (well the older 2) as soon as I had got my head around my diagnosis myself. I wanted to tell them before anyone else.

The hardest parts throughout treatment were not being able to move after my double mx or being able to cuddle my little girl, chemo - especially the first one as was very sick and back in hospital and then when my hair came out it really took them a while to get used to it and me being tired felt really awful about it!

I look back now and although it was a very tough time for all of us, the kids actually got on much better than I thought especially in school. It’s all behind us now and they probably will not really remember me being ill, but kids are much more resilient than we think.

I remember many embarrassing occasions when one of my sons (who has Aspergers) shouted out “is it because you have bad lumps mummy?!!”…quite a few funny looks in my direction I can tell you!

Paula x

hi dolly molly, i am so glad you posted on here, as i was reading through your comments it were as though i was reading about myself, i have 3 children 12 years old and 8 year old twins, i could totally relate to you saying being too tired to take them to bed, etc and now i feel that i need to take time out from household chores etc and give more of my time to things that really matter, our time is precious this situation has made me realise this more that before, thanks for that liz xxxx

hi chilli, see you are not on your own, it is difficult enough learning how to be a mom, (not that we ever do)lol,without having to come to terms and cope with your diagnosis, the tax is a real bummer, i havent had the sore fingers and toes (as yet) dont like to speak too soon and tempt fate, but some of the other ladies will be able to talk to you about that one,

children cope with things in a different way dont you think? my 8 year olds have an issue with me maybe not being able to go and see them in their easter play at school next week, they understand why i may not be able to go, but they have practised extra hard to do their best for me and you can imagine how they felt when i told them " I will come if i can, but i carnt promise" that phrase “I carnt promise” they really understand the implications of. and i have visions of me making a fool of myself if i am having a bad day and start crying, which i do anyway lol

every day is a learning curve for all of us dont you think, just when you thought you knew everything lol

all the very best love liz xxxxx

Hi Rosie!
Sorry to hear your news and wanted to share with you that I have some idea of what your going through but we are all different- I was diagnosed this week with Pagets Disease a rare breast cancer and I have a 10 week old baby boy. Im ok at the moment an dfeel very positive but I actually knew I had before the confirmed diag 4 weeks ago after having a private consult with a breast specialist- I was very upset at the time and angry as my condition was misdianosed for over a year and my pregnancy has accelerated the condition.

Im feeling very positive now- I have my masectomy this weds and start chemo in May.
Its hard when you have a little one as I want to be the one that does everything for him but i am having to get used to all his grandparents having him- they are great and all rallying around to come and stay with us once treatment starts!

Im doing race for life in June with huge group of us and raising awareness of my condition and breast cancer in general in my town plus doing other events this year such as a bike ride and pole dancing charity show!! My passion is fitness and I used to teach Pole Fitness 3x weekly until my baby bumo was too huge, so I can’t sit around feeeling down- I know its going to be tough but having a child really is the best medicine and keeps you positive!
I hope you are feeling good right now and enjoying being a mum as much as possible!!