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help telling my 8 yr old about my diagnosis
117 Posts
hi there

I have started telling my 8 yr old that mommy is on strong medicine and we have to watch out hor germs so washing hands regularly at school and at home and after outside and we are still wearing masks when we go out and in school. She does have adhd and learning social cues is work in progress, she hasn't hasn't why I am off work yet do I decided in steps. My hair is starting to thin so u am trying to figure that one out. she has problems with self regulation too and likes routine and we have her routine and summer activities planned ahead. She is used to ne changing my hair color and different hair styles so I thinking I will break out tge wigs and she see and play with them and have the convo that mom might look a little different with steroids and hair loss due to sore scalp from medicine and let her ask questions. I guess there is no right way to do this to any child and children with exceptinalities. I know everyone is different but I just needed it to my process out in my mind, any feedback would be appreciated
7 Replies
2432 Posts


This publication from the CCS is a good resource to help you and your child understand about a parents cancer. https://cancer.ca/en/living-with-cancer/coping-with-changes/talking-about-cancer/talking-to-children-about-cancer

Give it a read and take from it what you believe will benefit in your sharing. Hope it helps.

Keep well


224 Posts

Hello @sun46

I have 3 documents sent to me by my support worker at the cancer centre about telling children…




My son was 5 at the time that I had surgery, and chemo with complete hair loss. I told him about the surgery first…very basic, that my tummy would be very sore, I couldn't hold the baby or have him sit on my lap, etc…but that I would be getting better every day. I did explain that I had cancer, it was a very complex illness, much different from when he got a cold or flu. My illness took a lot more treatment and time to treat, that the doctors would be giving me very powerful drugs so that I could get better. The drugs were so powerful to fight the illness, that it would made my hair fall out and lose weight and maybe not feel very well…very different from any medicine that he would take for a cold or flu or allergies. He didn't need to worry about it if he saw that my looks were changing or that I was tired. If he had any questions about it at any time, he could just ask me anything, anytime.

At first, I tried to hide my bald head from him…but it was too difficult to hide. It didn't bother him at all…I asked him and when he said he didn't care if I went scarfless, I thanked him, as I found the scarf to be hot.

I was in treatment during COVID before vaccines were available. We ended up keeping him home from school for several months…hard, but we felt necessary to keep me safe.

He really handled my cancer well...staying home from school extended past the COVID shutdowns was difficult for him.

I hope your talk goes well.


2526 Posts

@sun46 Hello…..telling a child with exceptionalities, about cancer, will take a bit of prep time! You mentioned “routines”……they will wish/need their routines kept, if possible…..they may be scared….they may think it is “their fault”…..so , please be “ready” for their emotions/unregulated and more….

Try Social Stories…..perhaps through a book/drawing pictures together…..explaining, age-appropriately, what is about to happen…and to explain in simple age-8 words, what it all means, to the CHILDS WORLD….

I do believe all kids are resilient!! And in time, your child will understand and simply: Carry On…..with you by their side!

Wishing you both, the best!


22 Posts

@Sadie12 I really wish the CCS outreach person or the social worker at the family practice clinic had thought to provide me with some of that information! I guess the part where I live in a multigenerational home with grandchildren aged 5 to 14 (two of them are diagnosed ADHD, the 9yo and 14yo) was too much for the professionals to take in. Anyway it's good to have it now, better late than never!

@sun46 I was diagnosed with cancer, or at least an “invasive mass” in March (my surgeon is a firm believer in not saying anything he can't back up with data, he didn't say CANCER until the lab results were back… let me down easily, LOL) and had surgery in April. The children were naturally concerned but seemed to take it in stride. Their mother probably did a lot of explaining while I was in hospital and we didn't try to be secretive. Hard to be secretive when you live with this many people. It was interesting to hear how the no-filter five year old processed things. “Nonna has a bad scratch on her tummy. The doctor made it and took out the bad lump.” (Technically a left colectomy. Worst scratch I ever had, LOL.)

There won't be hair loss and wigs and that for me, the doctor really did get all of the bad lump and the medical oncologist says that chemotherapy wouldn't improve my prognosis, so that's a conversation we don't have to have and I can't help much with ideas. But they've seen people shave their heads for summer weather so it's not weird and … kids are resilient. When my sister and I were 8 and 14 and our mother had breast cancer, not only did people Not Talk About That Cancer Word in the 1960s, our mother was a Christian Scientist and sickness or death was absolutely unmentionable. The worst thing about the ordeal was the looming horror of That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Spoken. I think it's difficult to tread the fine line between too graphic information and too much secrecy, but it's something we have to aim for. How to present information in a child-friendly format. Must look at those documents!

158 Posts

@sun46 My daughter was 8 when I got diagnosed. I am divorced and told her with her mom and stepdad present. I kept it simple and told her i had a spot of cancer that the doctors need to get rid of. I didn’t tell her I was stage three or anything like that. we agreed to keep the conversation open and she could call me and ask me questions at anytime. I explained to her during radiation that I might be tired and have to rest. I showed her pictures of the machine that gave me radiation and how it worked to help me. I explained how my MRIs and CT scans worked. I just never went into detail about anything unless she asked. I had a list in my fridge that said GREG’s Team which included everyone on my treatment team and I even included her in the list. When she asked why her name was in there I told her she was a short important part of my team because each person had a role in helping me get better. Her job was to give me lots of hugs and kisses and help me around the house if I needed it. She loved being part of the team and I had her design the title page for my cancer binder. I had surgery and now have a permanent colostomy bag. I didn’t tell her anything about this till after the surgery. My daughter realizes now that things were way worse than she originally knew about but she is grateful that I still here.

2526 Posts

@Haemish HI Greg…..we are ALL grateful you are still here. Period.


117 Posts

@Haemish thanks you for response, I love how you included her in the whole process. My daughter has adhd but also suffers from anxiety and worry about everything which we are working thru so we didn't want to add to that. Right or wrong we told her that I am on strong treatment/,medication that is causing my scalp and hair to be sensitive and yhe best to do is lighten the load so we did step by step and she loves my bald spot even it's not totally bald but I am the same old me. i asked hervand showed her wigs but she didn't want me to wear them. As time goes on and when it's time for surgery then I will explain it a bit more in detail but right now there hasn't been many changes in routine and I haven't had many side effects. You have given me some more tips going forward. I appreciate you taking the time.

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