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Telling a ten year old - any tips?

28 REPLIES 28
Demelza
Member

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

Thanks for this, Bernard - Sunday is the big day, and gathering resources and inner strength apace. 

Bernard_BCN
Community Manager

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

Dear @Demelza, our Forum users have made some very good suggestions already. I'd like to add Mummy's Lump, which is available to download in PDF:

https://breastcancernow.org/information-support/publication/mummys-lump-bcc164

Sending all our love

Bernard

adoptedmanc
Community Champion

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

I’m lucky enough to have a cooking husband too 😊 (which reminds me one of the kindest gestures I had was my sister in law sending us some frozen meals it just made the “what shall we eat tonight?” question a bit easier a few times, but I was (to be fair) completely exhausted by my husband’s lockdown routine of only shopping once a week and insisting we decide on every meal for the coming week every Friday night! 🤣

We all have our little niggles (we don’t row just bicker usually over the way things are done) I’m sure your husband is more than capable of picking up gaps which you can’t fill (clearly he won’t do things as well as you because no man can!) but communication is the key.  
I’ve just travelled into work with a neighbour who had BC 7 years ago (I only found this out after I’d had my treatment and we’ve subsequently become friends as a result) we both reflected on how the BC journey feels long with lots of bumps in the road but you will come through it all and be there for your daughter (I’m not going to deny having lost my dad at 13 I was so so worried my daughter was going to face the same thing)

AM xxx

Demelza
Member

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

  • Thank you, AM. To be honest and to my shame, it's not entirely out of character for me to do some eye-rolling out loud at his "little ways", but this is of a whole different order. At my worst I am so furious I shock myself, especially as it's only with him.  He's a really good man, but like many other families, the organising/ remembering/ reminding/ decision-making seems to fall more on me. As you said, I currently don't have the headspace for it, worry I am missing important things (I already have) , and would LOVE to have him step up more (though he'sa much better cook, and has been doing more of that, hurrah!). More importantly,  I am so very sorry for your losing your father so young.  The thought of the treatment not working and my daughter being in a similar situation can be quite paralysing, though I take some comfort in the resilience you found.  Hugs, D
adoptedmanc
Community Champion

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

You most definitely are not alone!

Cancer is just horrible for what it does to your body but also your mind 

I lost my dad in tragic circumstances when I was 13, which has given me an element of resilience and thought “cancer can’t be as bad as that” I was so so wrong. I hope your husband can appreciate that your mind has been thrown into turmoil by your diagnosis and therefore you have limited mind capacity to deal with some of life’s minutiae and your shorter fuse isn’t “you”.
We are also a family of 3 and we very much pull together but when one of us goes out of kilter we are able to identify when that happens and keep things (relatively) stable! Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but then who is?

lots of love AM xxx

Demelza
Member

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

  • I think the "only" change is my hugely shorter fuse with my husband, the poor guy. Please tell me I am not the only one....feeling guilty...
Herman2301
Member

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

 
Steph J
Member

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

Hi Carrot 

Yes Im getting marked & measured on Tuesday morning . 

Then apparently 7 - 10 days later start & I'm having 5 sessions . The decision to use 5 sessions is following the Fast Forward Trial .. although the full findings haven't been published yet . 

I'm doing ok , still sore under arm especially & intermittent tiredness but in the main Im tootling along .

Hope you ok , any update from your end ? Xxx

 

Charys
Community Champion

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

Demelza - I didn't know, sorry I must have missed reading that earlier, about your plans for 'when'. I am not going to say any 'idea' is pants - because you have your reasons and you are her family and know her and all of your needs, thats entirely right that you decide what is best for you. I think thats lovely what you describe, if she's currently unaware and you are both enjoying your normal chatty leading-up-to Christmas time at school, then a hol.....and she will still have 2 weeks to get used to it, then that sounds good. I know that personally I might accidentally 'let something drop' , even in conversation to my husband or on the phone or something.....buts thats me 🤣 I was just worried you were planning on waiting 3 weeks and doing it the night before or something 🙄...but that was a silly thought, as you are emotionally SO intelligent that you've thought everything through in great detail. x

adoptedmanc
Community Champion

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

Hello ladies

@Demelza I think your idea of telling her after you’ve been away is spot on, the later you can leave it to tell her the better. 
You mention your husband being very anxious about what to do, this is very much my husband too.  Whilst I was going through my treatment my husband was really stressed by it and developed various stress related conditions (he is quite an anxious person anyway) and thankfully he’s had some recent treatments which have helped him to deal with his anxiety better and he can now talk about things better, but he did tell me something he appreciated when I was first diagnosed was his sister (the former primary deputy head) ringing him and specifically saying “how are YOU?” He too needs to have an outlet and support and mustn’t let how he feels be ignored because you are the proper poorly one. 
Sorry if this gives you something else to worry about, but hopefully if you are away with family someone can check in with him too 

AM xxx

Demelza
Member

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

Thanks Charys. I know everyone says that they pick up on things, but I truly think that she is blissfully unaware at the moment, possibly because when we are together, the BC head mash recedes quite a bit, and it's the closest I can feel to normal. She's happy, chatty, huggy, and excited about Christmas, decorating the classroom and Secret Santas. She's even managing her homework, which has previously been quite a source of stress. So I want to hit the sweet spot of giving her time to process without having too long to worry about it. We are away this weekend, and also the one after for my mum's big birthday bash. If I tell her when we get back from that, she will have two weeks to get used to the idea, and ask any questions of us and the school. Do say if you think that's a Pants Idea...

Charys
Community Champion

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

NO probs, I've just edited it to add a few bits actually......might like to relook 🙂

No, you are not at all coming across as emotionally unintelligent, infact its the complete opposite - you are so desperate to find the absolutely spot on perfect (and there isn't such a thing) communication, as you love her and care so much, that its driving you in circles and making you worry with an excess of 'emotional intelligence'. The important thing is that you are calm, answer her questions, make communication open for the future, and reassure her that her Mummy and Daddy are having to deal with something but itll be sorted out.

When are you planning this chat - I would suggest sooner rather than later 🙂 ?

Demelza
Member

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

Charys, you are a star, thank you, and I realise I am probably coming across as really emotionally unintelligent! I am going to take all this on board, and will discuss with my equally over-thinking husband, who sounds even more serious than me when trying out different approaches. I think I may be leading the chat on the sofa... Three weeks to the surgery seems interminable. I think I might just pop!

 

Charys
Community Champion

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

How about something like.......(using the first part of your words as a quote, but realise they aren't quite the ones you'd use in the actual situation).....

 

"I'm having an operation to get rid of a little cancer.. doctor says everything's going to be fine... but if you have any worries at all, or questions then just ask us/talk to us and we will tell you whatever we know. Oh by the way, we've mentioned it to your Headteacher so that they knew I was having an operation and maybe some other treatment so home life might be a little different for a few weeks. She wanted you to know that if you are ever feeling upset for any reason, or need someone to talk to, they want to be there for you. ....So......is there anybody you would like to know, at school, who you like and trust, incase you want to ask them anything or talk to them ?  I know you might not want to chat to anyone, and maybe you just feel ok with your Headteacher and teacher knowing and getting on with the normal school day. Have a think and let me know....."  (Let her make the choice) I think, given everything you are saying, that if she has a good relationship with the pastoral care teacher then that might be her choice. You could even mention that as it helped her so much last time to chat to that teacher (during the X specific problem), you/the school thought it might be useful again ?

At any point during this she might ask questions or interrupt with some thoughts obviously, so you'll have to divert and discuss as necessary. If she queries why the school knows, because its 'not a big deal' say its usual for parents to inform the school of ANY differences in home life, just incase it affects a child in school - not just an operation, but an ill grandparent, or a dead pet or a family member who has left home, or or or........and that is the truth ! We all know that conversations with children can take turns and twists quickly and easily, and evolve. You are putting a lot of pressure on yourself to find complete perfection, thinking and rethinking - don't overthink to the point of making it unnatural. 😉

I hope this helps a bit. This is only an example, my words quickly typed down, but I can see you are really struggling to find a way through this dilemma of the discussion and now the school asking to help if they can.

 

Demelza
Member

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

Thanks AM and @Charys. I didn't have any aunts, uncles or godparents growing up and really missed them, so I completely get that it's important for children to have someone outside immediate family to talk to. She had a very specific but strong anxiety earlier this year that school dealt very well with, so fortunately she already has a good relationship with the pastoral support teacher. Her form teacher is now on long-term sick leave, and she is being taught by a variety of other staff. It's a very good point that the school may not appreciate that after I have recovered from the surgery (mainly over the holidays) and with luck no chemo needed, I may not look "ill" to either her or her friends. And that they can talk about "the thing" without talking about it. It's "just" the linguistic gymnastics of "I'm having an operation to get rid of a little cancer.. doctor says everything's going to be fine... but who would you like to know about this thing that really isn't a thing?"! Having been in the pink of health just the day before I found myself in a different hospital for a couple of days early September after a mysterious "turn" that is hopefully unrelated (otherwise I imagine I really will be up a river without a paddle). She was whisked off to a friend's house and seems to have done really well since, having got used to my popping pills and taking my BP regularly as we downplay it and keep it cheerful. Hoping that with that under her belt, she may be less perturbed than we are dreading. She has only seen my acutely and obviously ill/hurt a couple of times and both of them she found really distressing. And breathe..... thanks again, both of you xx

adoptedmanc
Community Champion

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

Hello @Demelza 

For what my thoughts are worth (some of which come from two sister in laws in primary education one of whom was a deputy head) I think it should just be a case of her class teacher and maybe another pastoral teacher (I believe most schools have at least one teacher or assistant who works in the background and helps children with situations they may find difficult or upsetting) should be aware what is going on at home which helps the school to support children whose behaviour may change as a result or they might become upset and not be able to explain why. 
When my daughter was in primary school (which was before my diagnosis) there was at least two ladies who undertook this role and they were hugely supportive to my daughter who struggled with friendships in primary school and unfortunately was bullied: they had very good ways of talking about things without actually talking about “the thing”, if you get my meaning? 
Am I correct in thinking that chemo is not part of your treatment plan? If it isn’t and you are not necessarily going to appear physically ill then it’s much easier to not have to tell people, maybe the school hasn’t necessarily appreciated that? 
When I was diagnosed I told my daughter’s form teacher (she was in year 7) and I just said I think you need to know in case she becomes upset and it was left at that. 
I agree with Charys that all children need a network of trusted adults in their lives be that school teachers, dance teachers, sports coaches, aunties, uncles….. it was the fact that my daughter was deprived of those people’s company during Lockdown that upset me more than anything. 
I hope this is helpful? There maybe some ladies on the forum who are teachers who can provide another perspective too? 
AM 💕

Charys
Community Champion

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

HIyer Demelza,

My feeling is that just because you choose to tell her in a certain way, with all the best carefully chosen words imaginable, it doesn't mean that she's not going to have worries or questions and might want to be able to ask/talk to other people. I know you are so worried about making everything ok for your babe, as any loving parent would, but sometimes unexpected things come up in the their heads. She might, before you tell her, have heard more than you think from the environment and people she talks to, and decide to be brave and not question you or worry you. This is all just an example, but children generally do benefit from someone in school unconnected to the family to whom they can talk if they wish. She might not need to, and be quite happy just accepting and getting on with it all, and thats fine too - but the option to have someone to go to is a good one.

There is of course 'putting things in a positive way' but there is no hiding that it still is a big thing for a child when their parent has something that needs surgery and treatment, and she will know that the 'cancer' word is mentioned. Cancer that will be treated of course, but it will have an impact on her in practical ways and possibly emotional ways that she might not always share with you (although of course, you'd hope that she would share :)). In the same way that those after a diagnosis choose to tell everyone, or very few, depending on their personal choice, then your daughter might want to just go to school and not think and talk about it - or she might want to be more open to having friends and discussion that helps her to process things if she needs it.

A bit of a ramble here, but I guess what I'm saying is that the school have done this many times before and have a tried and tested method to be supportive - so better to presume that it might be needed than have nobody there to support her if she needs it.

 

Am I making any sense ?

Demelza
Member

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

Hi AM, everyone

Follow-up thoughts: I really like the idea of low-key positivity. However, when I spoke to a neighbour who has had (another) cancer when her kids were the same age, she said how useful it had been for them to know there were adults who they could talk to outside the family. She was visibly ill before her chemo, so a slightly different situation. My husband told my daughter's teacher yesterday. She is going to tell the Head, and another very approachable teacher, but wanted us to ask our daughter who at school she wants to know and not to know. All this sounds very supportive, but isn't this going to reinforce the idea that something big is going on despite our positivity? I am probably over-thinking this!

Carrott
Member

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

Thank you Steph! Hope you’re keeping well. Do you have any dates for your radio yet? Also, do you know how many sessions it will be?

Best wishes

Carrott

Demelza
Member

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

Thank you for these links - I will have a rummage around and take on all the sage advice xx

 

Steph J
Member

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

Hi Carrot 

Just read your post & glad you feel youve done the right thing.

I think as a parent we want to protect our children but in truth withholding certain things can lead to more stress for them.

Sounds as though you made it as simple but as honest as you can be, and hopefully if they have any questions they will feel they can ask you.

Well done you xx 

 

 

Demelza
Member

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

  • Thank you for wise words. I think I might need to practise! It's not so much the physical stuff I am concerned about her being around- though I don't get on well with anaesthetic- it's that I suspect I might be quite emotional/depressed, which I don't want her to see until I have pulled up my socks a bit. 
Demelza
Member

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

Thanks, lovely, will have a good look x

Charys
Community Champion

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

Hiyer Demelza,

My daughter was a fair few years older when I told her, so I don't have direct experience (like the ladies below), but I have found for you some links to what might be useful articles on BCN. Of course you are the expert on your daughter and will be able to judge what is right, when and how depending on her personality, but the suggestions and pointers in these might help you to find best path......

 

https://breastcancernow.org/about-us/news-personal-stories/five-tips-telling-children-about-breast-c...

https://breastcancernow.org/information-support/facing-breast-cancer/talking-children-about-breast-c...

https://breastcancernow.org/information-support/publication/talking-your-children-about-breast-cance...

(This is a downloadable leaflet ^)

https://breastcancernow.org/about-us/news-personal-stories/tools-talking-children-about-cancer

 

Take care

 

 

adoptedmanc
Community Champion

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

Hi @Demelza 

My daughter was a very mature just turned 12 year old when I got my diagnosis, and I decided to be completely honest with her and tell her I had cancer, however as she is an only child she is very used to “grown up” conversations. I don’t think she knows of anyone having cancer before me, so I was able to explain it in terms of I need an operation and I will have some radiotherapy and the good news was I wasn’t going to be in work over the summer holidays so she wouldn’t have to amuse herself I’m the days I normally worked.  Actually telling her everything was going to be OK was very cathartic as that was the point when I knew myself it was all going to be OK. 
You know your daughter if you think she will understand that having cancer doesn’t mean you will die then use the word, but if you think she will remember what happened with her teacher then probably best not to use the word at this stage. 
In terms of how you’ll be after the operation from what you’ve said on your other post I don’t think you will be any worse than you were after your c-section, I expect if you tell her you are going to be a bit tired and sore and you’ll need her help, she will really appreciate being part of your recovery 

Lots of love AM xxx 

Demelza
Member

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

  • Sorry, I read your note properly and realised you do know. Let's hope our surgeons get these two suckers promptly shown the door. I am only scheduled to be in for a day!
Demelza
Member

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

  • Thank you so much and I am glad it went so well. Positivity sounds a great plan. Do you know yourself if it is cancer yet? I am being advised to tell there that it is. Gulp! Sending you hugs and positivity right back and hoping it's the best news possible 
Carrott
Member

Re: Telling a ten year old - any tips?

Hi,

I was absolutely dreading telling my kids but I did it yesterday. I have a 15 year old girl and 11 year old boy.  If I had my time again, I would do it exactly the same way.

Basically I told them both that I had some “good news”. I told them that I had found a lump in my breast and I was really worried about it. The good news is that the doctors have confirmed they can definitely remove it and they are doing it next week!

My daughter immediately asked “why is that good news”. I said because I didn’t think they would take it out until next year so I am really really happy that it’s going to be next week and I am happy that the doctors are certain they will get rid of it.

She asked if the lump was the “dreaded thing” and I said we didn’t know for certain but it did look suspicious and that’s why I am really happy it’s being removed.

It seemed to please them both that I was happy and confident. Also, I told them I would only be in hospital 1 or 2 nights and when I came back, we were going to watch some good films together.

My plan is to drip feed the information. Once I get the pathology results of my surgery, I will tell them that it turned out to be a sinister lump and thank goodness it has already been removed. If I need chemo / radio, I will then explain that we don’t want it to come back so this is why etc…

I hope it goes well when you tell daughter. My biggest tip is to keep it as positive as possible as she will feed of your positive vibes.

Sending lots of love and strength x

 

Demelza
Member

Telling a ten year old - any tips?

Hi,

And sympathy and hugs to everyone who finds themselves in the same boat.

I was diagnosed with invasive ductal cancer Grade 2 last week, and have a mammoplasty and sentinel node biopsy scheduled for 16/12. It's the last day of term for my Y6, who will then have three weeks off. At least I won't need to be doing the school run.

The surgeon said (nicely) that she wasn't worried about me, though of course I am worried about myself and even more so about my daughter. She hasn't had any experience of anyone with cancer as far as I know (apart from a teacher who died just before she joined the school but never met) and I really don't know how much she is aware of it.

She will be having a sleepover with a friend on the day of the operation, and possibly the next day if I am still not in great shape/unable to put my happy reassuring face on (so far I have pulled this off quite well).

I realise I am going to have to tell her but not sure about when or how. I don't want to tell her too far in advance as I can't see the upside: she is quite young for her age and I really don't think she has picked anything up. We like watching Strictly together and I thought about talking to her about it about 15 minutes before the show, a week before the op, when we are snuggled up on the sofa in readiness. Hopefully she will have time to ask questions then focus on something else - this worked both times when I broke the news a grandparent had died. 

I don't know if this is the right forum ie this is all new to everyone here, but any thoughts or advice gratefully received. Obviously there are questions I am dreading... Thank you