Telling young children about mastectomy

Hi everyone, I have been looking around the internet and this community seems like a caring and helpful place. I need some advice for an upcoming surgery.

I am 40 yrs. old. Had breast cancer 10 years ago and then had lumpectomy, chemotherapy, stem cell transplant & radiation. All has been fine since.

Just found out I have the BRCA2 gene, so I am having elective double mastectomy with reconstruction and a hysterectomy. Here’s the problem I’m facing. I have 7 year old twins who aren’t aware of my health history (they are not mine biologically). In one month, I will be hospitalized for 3-4 days for these surgeries and then will be recovering for 6 weeks or so.

How can I explain this to them? Since this is a preventative measure, I want them to know that I’m not sick and I don’t want to frighten them.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. My children love to hug and cuddle, so I want to make sure they understand that they have to be extra careful for a few months.

Thanks in advance!

Sincerely,
Heather

Hi Heather

Breast Cancer Care publishes a book which may help you with the way you approach discussing the subject with your children.

It’s title is ‘Mummys Lump’, which does suggest that you are ill which is not the case with you I understand, but it does tackle very sensitively some of the issues around communicating the issues you will be facing.

Here is the link, the book can be ordered via the website:

breastcancercare.org.uk/server/show/nav.715/changeTemplate/PublicationDisplay/publicationId/18

I do hope it is helpful for you.

Kind regards.

Louise
Facilitator

Hi Heather

We also have a dedicated area of the website on talking with children which you may find helpful:

breastcancercare.org.uk/server/show/nav.436

All the best

Nick

Hi Heather

First of all, it’s great to hear that you have been clear for 10 years! It is a dilemma what to say to children, but I strongly believe that you have to tell as much as they are capable of understanding and at the age of 7, quite a lot I should think.

I was told to be as honest with my son as possible, (he was 10) as if things were kept from him he would make up his own assumptions which would possibly cause him more worries. This was at my diagnosis with treatment and uncertainty ahead.
I too, have been tested for BRCA genes, but am still waiting for results. I am also waiting to have my ovaries removed. I was due to go in for the op 3 weeks ago (it was postponed!) so had to explain this to my son. When I told him it would reduce the liklihood of the cancer coming back, the look of relief on his face was really evident and he told me he still has worries that it might come back, so now he can stop worrying. (if only I found it that easy!)

I don’t know if your daughters are aware of your BC, but if they thought that you were doing something that increased the likelihood of your being there for them for longer, I believe that they would be very understanding and think what a great thing you were doing for all of your family! and you are!

Take care and I hope that all goes well,

Nicky

Thanks to everyone for all the great information! Have a wonderful weekend.

Sincerely, Heather

I have just had op and start strong chemo on Friday children 11 and 6 they know mommy had poorley boobie but not much more yet this is something we are going to talk over the weekend …
I dont think Im going to say the C word due to the press at mo but say the medicine and hair loss is due to the strong medicine they are giving me so that Im not bad again …or so poorley boobie not come back
What do you think or hope this helps …

Hi all

My name’s Carole, I had a mastectomy in December 08, so fairly new, anyway I would just like to say “Mummy’s Lump” is a fantastic book in my opinion it could not have been written any better. I have 3 children, 13, 8 and 4. My 8 yr old took it upon herself to read it and then asked me questions afterwards, she was not frightened by it more interested. My 4 yr old actually takes it to school to read., and my 13 yr old is a boy so as long as he knows mum’s gonna be okay he’s fine. I know all children react differently to things but in my own personal experience I have been open with them from the start and I always said to them that if they need to know anything then all they need to do is ask, and they do. Take care xxxxxxxx

Me again just to let you now found my 6 year old daughter trying my softy ( 1st soft false boob )under her top and she just said :look my I found your false boobie in your bottom draw do you think it looks good …? : We both just feel about laughing oh the joys of children lol
By the way my husbands face was a picture he looked horrified …but thats men for you lol xxxx
Hope she takes to my hair loss as well .
Good Luck

Hello all

My kids were 15,12 & 3 when I was diagnosed. After the hard bit, telling them that I had breast cancer, the rest was easy. I showed them the diagrams of the type of operation I was going to have, I got a copy of Mummy’s Lump for the little one (very useful!) and explained whyi was having the operation and the limitations that it would bring for a while afterwards. It was never a problem. They’ve asked lots of questions as time has gone along, and have coped with the surgery, which wasn’t as bad as I’d ben expecting tbh, as it was mostly numb and also with the chemo. I’d say that was more difficult and more debilitating than anything.
Now the little one doesn’t bat an eyelid at anything! And she’s quite happy to discuss my bc with anyone who asks. And above all, none of them are frightened as they know that I tell them all. But not until I know all there is to be told myself…!

Good luck!
Td xx

HI heather,

I had a full mastectomy on the left side and was in hospitsal for 12 days, my little girl aged 5 was realy scared. the book “mummys lump” has been fantastic. she was able to follow my treatment and it was really easy to relate to. Telling her that mummy had a nasty lump seemed to help and that i needed to be in hospital take away the nasty lump seemed to make her feel at ease. i think being open and honest with children is better than trying to hide the problem. there were questions but she seemed to accept my illness and was great when i came home.
my thoughts are with you
guinness
xxx