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Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by ACH2015 on Jun 9, 2018 8:45 am

Hi Poppy‍ 

If there was ever a time to have an empty plate for you - that would be now.

I'm sorry your plate is over flowing. You came to the right place to lighten your load though!

I am a survivor of cancer, and just had my 4th surgery 3 days ago.

Your reaching out is the best thing for you and your children right now. Your stress level needs to be as low as possible.

I am tagging MalcolmS‍ in here to offer you some suggestions about talking to your children. 

For yourself, please get in touch with the social worker at your cancer hospital. They are there to listen and help you sort out the mess cancer dumped onto you. The resources are different at every cancer center, but social workers are standard. No matter how strong you are, you need to dedicate a lot more resources to yourself right now. So, please don't try to do this all by yourself. It benefits us all in the end to keep our mental and physical strength in check when dealing with cancer.

Also, call the Canadian Cancer Society - below

If you need support or have any questions, contact us.

Talk to us 1-888-939-3333

Read more: http://www.cancer.ca/en/?region=on#ixzz5Hvn7undV

Below is a booklet from the CCS about coping when you have cancer. Check out the Canadian Cancer Society website for excellent information and resources.


Welcome to a supportive and informed community. You aren't alone, and we are here to listen and offer our experiences, because we have all been where you are now.

Keep well and keep us posted on how you and the kids are doing.

ACH2015 - Andy.

Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by Kims1961 on Jun 9, 2018 9:11 am

Poppy‍  Thank you for posting and so sorry you have so much on your plate.  Wow...I am just acknowledging what a difficult time this is - besides the cancer diagnosis.

Great - you've found us and have reached out.  You have received some awesome advice from ACH2015‍ and LPPK‍ .  They have provided links to some great resources. Some ideas:

1. For You - are there any local counselling agencies or through your cancer care center so that you have someone for yourself to talk to?  Some family doctors/health teams also have Social Work support that you might be able to access - or if you have benefits - you may qualify to meet with a Social Worker privately that would be covered under your benefits.  You definitely have the support of this forum - but  sometimes it's also nice to speak to someone in person. I so understand that feelings of anger and the "dark side".  I have found exercise helpful with these feelings - a Zumba class?  fitness class?  a walk with a friend?  Something that can increase those "happy hormones" in our brain - can sometimes help combat those dark thoughts.  Some people actually find "screaming and smashing" things helpful- in a productive way.  In our community they have a "Smash Room" for charity - where you pay to smash items...lol...  Yoga and Mindfulness techniques can also be helpful.
Do you have family/friend supports?  Definitely use them now - there will be a time you can pay them back!

2. The kids - definitely telling the kids was the hardest part for me.  The resources linked are good and again there may be some excellent Children's Mental Health agencies in your community or the schools?   Are there any family friends/ family connections that can help ?  Strengthening those family links can also open doors for them to talk to someone who is "safe" about what is going on for them.  It's often a good idea to let teachers know what is going on so they can provide some support at school - but as school will be out for the summer - maybe that isn't helpful right now but in the Fall if necessary?  You mentioned your son has mental health issues - is he connected to any supports? It actually may be a good thing that he "lashes out or screams" because it can give you starting points to talk to him.  It's hard when they hold it in sad and they are also dealing with the separation.  As much as we don't want our kids to experience distress and/or painful times - remember it helps to build resilience and an opportunity to build coping skills that they will use lifelong.  You know your kids best - so it may be individual support ideas that will help each of them.  Seeing that you can get through this difficult time together as a family - will in the long haul strengthen all of you.  

We are here for you - feel free to connect whenever you need to or message me.  You do have alot going on but will find you are stronger than you think and braver than you believe.


Her2+, ER+ Bilateral mastectomy in 2017, followed by chemo and radiation. Mack and Hannah's mom

Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by Jimmi on Jun 9, 2018 9:23 am

Poppy‍ Hello, welcome to the site. Life certainly isn't fair at times and I am sorry to hear the struggles you are going through right now. Keep in mind that things will change and it won't always feel like your world is falling apart.  "Why do you keep fighting..?" I believe you answered that - you have 3 children who love & depend on you :)
I'm a grandmother of two 7 yr old granddaughters ; I have ovarian cancer. I gave a lot of thought when telling them about my illness and just told them what they needed to know without stressing them out & answered any questions they had. Do you have family members & friends for support group ? Good idea from ACHC to seek help from Social workers at hospital they will offer good advice for you & your children. Keep strong & keep us up to date.

Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by Brighty on Jun 9, 2018 5:15 pm

Poppy‍  wow, you have your hands full!  I'm so sorry for what you are facing.     I'm glad you found us here, because there are amazing people on the site that will always be here to support you and answer questions, or refer you to someone or something.     Where are you located?     Do you have family doctor?   Usually you can talk to your family doctor and he or she will refer you to a nearby hospital that can provide different types of councelling services that are availiable in your area.       There's usually an oncology social worker too at every hospital and they will always be happy to see you and help you.     I used the one at the hospital too and she would see me anytime I dropped in, she would make the time to talk with me.      Please keep in touch and hang in there..........one day at a time, one hour at a time!     
Help is out there. All you have to do is reach out.

Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by MalcolmS on Jun 9, 2018 7:01 pm

Ugggh, what a difficult time for you.

You may want to hold off a bit on talking to the kids about cancer.  There's no urgency, maybe think about going with "Mom's having some health problems and the doctors are working on it."  Once you get through surgery and re-evaluation, you can decide if the time is right to tell them.

Also try not to stress the 50% time thing right now, your cancer treatments are going to be limiting how much you can handle anyway...your going to need time to rest....focus on getting your health back in a positive direction, then you can come back to the arrangements again in the future and be in a better position to deal with it.

Most importantly, get some professional counseling help.  Talk to your GP and your Oncologist and your surgeon about what's going on at home, get them to refer you to professional support.  Don't treat it like a B priority, your mental health is directly connected to your physical health and vice versa.  To beat cancer you need to get your mind in a healing space.

Don't wait, don't procrastinate.  Write it down.  Make an appointment and when you see the Doctor hand him/her the paper saying, "I really need some mental health support"

I know its a s*** deal, but others have been through similar and tougher situations.  If they can do it, so can you.  Hang in there and vent here anytime.

Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by Cynthia Mac on Jun 10, 2018 8:42 am

Poppy‍ , you’ve got lots of good advice about many of your points, and you’ve mentioned you’ve been to court, so you likely have a good, competent lawyer, so that box is checked.

From what you’ve written about your son and your estranged husband, your life has been in very, very much turmoil, probably for some time.

I’m going to offer you some advice that “might not fit in your ear” too well, but it’s something I hope will help. Try to look at your potential move as an opportunity. Perhaps a new home for you might be a place for you to find quiet, and an environment that you can set up to be your “healing space.” Here’s why I say this:

Almost 10 years ago now, I had to flee a relationship that had gone toxic. I’m a bit of a “security hound,” and this decision was very out-of-character for me, but I decided one morning I couldn’t stay another day, even though the location was a dream-come-true kind of place. A family member gave me a place to stay for a few weeks while I searched out a more permanent solution, and I found the perfect place. 

Also, I have a former work colleague who has been through many, many challenges in her life, raising two girls to adulthood with no support whatsoever. She, too, has made drastic changes in her life, and has been an example to me of how to remain positive, even through a recent knee injury. Like me, she had to do a lot of work to get to her current frame of mind, but she did it, and her challenges were much tougher than mine!

There are three books I’ve encountered along my journey that have really helped me tremendously through difficult times such as yours. The first is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, the second, You can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay (which I took with a grain of salt until about page 25 - the affirmations alone are worth having the book), and the third is a book about meditation called Wherever you Go, There you Are, by Jon Cabot-Zinn. 

I sincerely hope you are able to find peace in this valley you’ve found yourself in. Be kind to yourself, and trust that your needs will be met, and that there are lots of people who wish the highest good for you as you go through these difficult processes.
“When the root is deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.” - Japanese saying

Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by Poppy on Jun 14, 2018 1:51 am

I told the kids today... there was no easy way to bring up the subject.  I decided it was best to take them with me to see the counselor (community outreach worker), so that I could tell the kids with some support in the room.   

I chose to tell the 13 yr old first.  When I told him after school, that  I had arranged a meeting with the counselor, and that I needed all three of them (he and his siblings) to be there, he asked if it was to talk about "the stuff".  I said yeah.  But his "stuff" was referring to the outcome of what happened in court last week with his dad and I.  He had no idea my "stuff" was about the cancer.  So, of course when I told him the news, he cried.  crying  I felt horrible for dropping the news on him, just when things are starting to turn around for him.  But I also think it was important for the kids to know the truth, especially since I'll be in hospital for 5-7 days, and they'll want to know why.  

After a few minutes with him, he said he wanted to talk to his friend and tell him, and I said of course.  He also asked if his teacher knew, and I said I hadn't told her yet, but he could tell her, and the counselor at school if wants to... which I think he will do tomorrow.  I left him so he could talk to his friend, while I went to tell his younger siblings. 

When I told the 6 and 10 yr old, the 6 yr. old basically just sat there... like he didn't really get what was going on.  I asked them both at one point, if they had heard anything about cancer, and they both said yes.. every year at school they do the Terry Fox run for cancer.  (of course!  I had completely forgotten about that!)  I reassured them that I would not have my let amputated like Terry Fox did.  I also told them that I don't know all the answers about what will happen after surgery (in terms of recovery/ treatment, etc), but that there would absolutely be someone there (their Uncle and older, adult brothers) to take care of them while I was recovering.  

All-in all, the conversations went okay.  There never is a good time to bring up the topic of cancer, and I think it's absolutely a different scenario for each person/family,  when they hear the news.  
This evening, the 13 yr old wanted to talk more about it, and told me he did some research about it... wanted to share his findings with me.  I guess that makes it a little less scary for him. 

I am sure over the next few weeks, they will all have more questions.  It seems everyone always wants to know more than I can tell them at this point.  All I know is that I am very angry at the circumstances of my life right now.  Not just the cancer..... all of it.  

Thank you , everyone, who has responded and reached out offering your support.  I never thought I would ever find myself in a place (online) such as this, but being able to talk about it with people who are going through , or have been through, something similar... really helps. 


Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by ACH2015 on Jun 14, 2018 7:10 am

Hey Poppy‍ 

I am glad to hear you cleared another hurdle by telling your children about your cancer. You don't need anymore stress on your shoulders right now. I hope it has given yous some mental relief. I am not an expert on children, but as a son, I expressed to my parents years ago to be upfront and honest with me with their medical issues. Better to know at the onset than find out when things get more involved and you find out the hard way.

It's great that you are also including a community outreach worker to help support for you and you family.

When dealing with all that cancer throws at us, It is our priority to be as stress free possible, and devote our energies to dealing with all the ups and downs involved. Get rid of your stress, don't hold it in.  

You are doing all the right things, you reached out here, you let the kids know what's going on, and you sought support from a social worker. Good on you - high five & a hug!

Keep well, keep reaching out, and keep us in the loop.

ACH2015 - Andy.

Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by Lacey_Moderator on Jun 14, 2018 9:29 am

Hi Poppy‍ 

It sounds like you did a great job telling the kids and making sure they were well supported. It must have been one of the most difficult things you have ever had to do. Good job Mom.

Your son sounds like he is quite resourceful reaching out to a friend, wanting to tell his teacher, and researching for you. A smart little guy you have raised there Mom. 

This is a very overwhelming time. But you're doing it, step by step, one day at a time. Keep reaching out here, to counselors, and all your supports. A year from now life will feel so much different.

Have you talked to someone with a similar diagnosis yet? As a mom I see your biggest concern was telling the kids and making sure they are well supported. Let's get you some people with experience to support you.

Glad you found us,


Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by Kims1961 on Jun 16, 2018 8:36 pm

Poppy‍ Well done!!  You did an excellent job of telling the kids and you have great instincts.  Letting your 13 yr old connect with a friend is such a great idea - so glad you supported him on that.  Peers can play an important role - particularly with our "teens".  He may get his support from there and how awesome is it that he did some research.  You have some pretty awesome kids.

This was the hardest conversation to have from my experience.  After the "first" talk - subsequent conversations - even more difficult ones - are a little easier as the kids now know you will keep them informed. It shows them that you know they can handle the information, if they are struggling you have connected with outside supports and that you are open to them coming to you to talk. You will be in awe of how much our kids can manage and it does build some resiliency tools for them as well.  

ACH2015‍ and Lacey_adminCCS‍ provided some excellent feedback as well.  

Please feel free to reach out whenever you need to.  Being angry...we've all been there and sometimes go back to there, is part of the recovery and healing.   Remember there are people out there to help us too..take care.   Kim
Her2+, ER+ Bilateral mastectomy in 2017, followed by chemo and radiation. Mack and Hannah's mom

Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by Poppy on Jul 5, 2018 10:07 pm

Still waiting for surgery scheduled for about two weeks from now.  It feels so counterproductive and maybe was too premature that I took a temporary leave of absence from my work to get things in order.   I had an appointment with an internist at the hospital today... mostly to rule out possible risk factors for upcoming surgery.  (I have one out of 6, in what already is determined to be "high risk" procedure).  I've also started the moving-out process as part of the separation from my spouse.  Extremely angry about the unfairness in all of that.. but there's no going back now.  Kids are going to have to adjust but at least they have the summer months to do so.  Been trying to line up help from friends and family for post-surgery... "everyone" wants to help but I still feel (right now at least) that I want to be left alone.  I am pissed off angry.  Is that allowed?  Still so many unknowns about what to expect in recovery, etc.  Worst case of insomnia.. not sleeping (maybe 2.5 hrs/night). and running on adrenaline.  So much to do.. so little time to do it.  Thanks for listening...

Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by Brighty on Jul 5, 2018 10:18 pm

Poppy‍  YES you are more than allowed to be angry!     You are dealing with more than one very stressful situation.       It probably is a good idea you took a leave of absence from work.......you have so much in your personal life to deal with.      I'm glad you are lining up your help and supports ahead of time.      You will have days you want to be left alone, and that is ok.   People will understand that.      Are you speaking with a councellor?     As for sleeping, it may not be the best idea in the world, but I did it because I was also desperate.   I got a prescription for sleeping pills.    Not an ideal thing to do, but if you have tried all other options and nothing else works, you might want to look into that...........other options:  Maybe something natural?  Like melatonin?   Warm milk..........hot bath before bed to relax you, soft music to relax you, meditation.........does anyone have any other ideas for sleep hygiene?      Camomile tea..............can't really think of anything else and for me, none of that other stuff worked, but it never hurts to try.   Something might work for you.     I also wish you all the best with your surgery and let us know how you are doing when you can.     
Help is out there. All you have to do is reach out.

Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by Gardenia on Aug 11, 2018 3:22 am

Hello Poppy, I thank you for your courage and strength in talking about your cancer, especially to your son! It seems your son has been educating himself on the topic! It’s not ever easy telling your family the most difficult part of your life! I know, because I have two children, a daughter and a son! Children are very intuitive and intellectually then we think! I can’t imagine what you are going through especially, with the recent surgery! Take care of yourself, not just body but, mind too! A little pampering goes a long way, such as a simple manicure, if, possible! Children are such critics, but, they mean well! “Family Is Everything,” that has been my new motto lately!  
Thank you! 

Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by Gardenia on Aug 24, 2018 5:19 am

This is address to everyone on the panel! I have two children, my daughter is 14 years old and my son is 10 years old I have spoked to them about my cancer! My question is how do you say goodbye to your heart and to your life? They're all, I know and will ever know! No one or anything can prepare you for that! It breaks my heart, knowing I will not be there for them at their most crucial time of their lives! My children feel the same way and there's nothing that I can say or do to change that! They know my love for them is unconditional and infinite! I'm truly blessed and honoured to be their mother!

Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by Lacey_Moderator on Aug 24, 2018 11:08 am

Hi Gardenia‍ 

I wish I had the words to make you feel better during this very difficult time. What you are going through is truly heartbreaking.

Talking about it and encouraging your kids to talk about it can really help. Have you considered talking to a Social Worker or a Counsellor for help?

Canadian Virtual Hospice has some helpful information on their website to help you with those difficult conversations including a resource kidsgrief.ca.

MalcolmS‍ might have some suggestions to make this time a little bit easier.

Thinking of you,

Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by myeloma200 on Mar 22, 2020 2:16 pm

I agree with concensus that children should be told using language they can understand.
I was diagnosed in January and spent the time doing my reasearch so I could explain
my diagnosis to my young adult children. I made sure that they continue to live their
own lives and that I would exhaust the treatment options available. In additions I made
sure that my medical team was available to the kids directly. 

Kids are resiant and they deserve nothing less than the truth. Any sugar coating is



Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by myeloma200 on Jun 9, 2020 3:56 pm

The question:"Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children" is timely.

I have cancer and was diagnosed this January. For my own peace of mind I researched the diagnosis
and documented the source documents and citations. With this in hand, I informed the kids in person,
provided the documentation, and asked only one thing. That they live their lives and not to waste time
on Cancer. I made sure and with consent of my medical team that the kids have direct access without their
Dads moderation. My kids are young adults and Chemo and pain meds are an ongoing source of humor!
If I present to them as to happy, they want the same pain meds without the chemo. If they have a cold
they ask me if Chemo meds will cure it.

In closing, your family should know that quality time is light years ahead of quantity time.
Be honest with your kids and provide them Dr access and all the information possible.


Wm. (Derek) FH Somer
Kelowna, BC


Re:MAID program.

Posted by myeloma200 on Jun 13, 2020 11:05 pm

Cancer is a battle that can in some cares can no longer be overcome. 
This applies to all of us.

I would like to hear from the group what they think about this.

Respectfuly, Derek

Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by Kims1961 on Jun 14, 2020 10:38 am

Hello Derek myeloma200‍ ,

Thank you for posting a question about MAID.  I think it's important that all of us know what are choices are in having a good life and having a good death.  For many, having MAID as an option, offers a piece of mind, for others - they would never use it for a number of personal reasons.  I believe the intent is to offer us the choice to have a good death, should we will be in a position of :
  1. Have a serious and incurable illness, disease, or disability;
  2. Be in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability;
  3. Endure physical and psychological suffering that is intolerable to them; and
  4. Their natural death has become reasonably foreseeable.

MAID is such a personal choice. As you have posted this under the Speaking With Your Children - i think this choice can also be shared well with our children.  Depending on their ages, the information would need to be shared in a way that fits with their developmental stage. 

Our family has had a number of serious health issues - starting with my husband, then my daughter, and now myself as a breast cancer patient. Through these many years, we have found it has actually brought our family closer to talk about the "difficult" things - like death, like how we want to die - what this means to us. We have also talked about MAID - maybe we would use this , maybe we won't - but it was helpful to have this open dialogue.  MAID for me, doesn't mean i'm giving up - it just means, with the time i have, it helps to know that i can plan my "good death".

The Dying with Dignity website has some excellent information  : https://www.dyingwithdignity.ca/navigating_a_request

Hopefully i didn't miss the mark with your question.   If I can ask - do you have children?

All the best, kim
Her2+, ER+ Bilateral mastectomy in 2017, followed by chemo and radiation. Mack and Hannah's mom

Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by myeloma200 on Jun 14, 2020 12:20 pm

Hi Kim,

Your post is bang on about MAID, thank you.
MAID is there for end of life dignity.
All of us have you in our thoughts and prayers.

You are a very brave woman. 



Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by WestCoastSailor on Jun 14, 2020 4:03 pm

myeloma200‍ and Kims1961‍ 

I'm wrestling more and more with this whole issue. I subscribe to the death with dignity idea. But I have lots of things that I need to reconcile so the conversation is far from finished.

I had an experience this last Friday where a friend of a friend using MAID came to me knowing that I was thinking and wrestling with these issues. From that discussion I realized again how much caregivers are impacted by this decision. In this case the decision was kept from friends and family knowing that they would have objections. And it left huge unresolved issues as a result. Like the issue of brain metastasis for cancer patients, this involved a case of early onset dementia.

When my wife died (without MAID) but quickly and peacefully in hospice care, one of the things that made it gentle was a series of reconciliations that happened with family and friends. If people had instead spent their energy trying to talk her out of MAID it would have been a far different experience. Early in my Covid experience I made it clear that should I end up in hospital, I was not interested in a ventilator. I had that discussion with my primary caregiver, my health POA and my oldest son. Not an easy conversation but I think it was one that started our conversation about MAID should that time come.

I have lots more questions than I do answers but I think the discussion is an important one to have.

My story: http://journey.anguspratt.ca

Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by Kims1961 on Jun 14, 2020 9:26 pm

WestCoastSailor‍  and myeloma200‍ ...Angus and Derek...thank you for this conversation. The unintended or maybe intended consequence of MAID, is that we can have the conversation .Hopefully as a society, we can move to more openness and less judgment in regards to death.  You brought up a good point Angus, in regards to care offered in hospice. In many ways, as one palliative doctor mentioned, is that they  can offer a peaceful death by medication and being less intrusive.

Thank you Derek..this is so important to discuss.

Stay well all!
Her2+, ER+ Bilateral mastectomy in 2017, followed by chemo and radiation. Mack and Hannah's mom

Re: Let's discuss speaking about cancer with your children

Posted by WarriorWoman on Jul 17, 2020 9:52 am

Thanks for sharing Ron, I think that many kids pick up on so much - even things that go unsaid. How have others handled telling their children about cancer?

We told her that Mommy was sick and that other people would be coming over a lot to help her. We let her be a part of the healing process as much as possible. A year later, she was watching Alexa and Katie on Netflix and started to ask some questions. That's the first time we told her the name of the disease. We were able to speak very openly and I answered her questions fully.  

Nanny Angel Network has a Child Life Specialist who can walk you through how best to speak to and involve your children.