Telling My Children I Have Lung Cancer -- Part II

Last updated: June 2019

Off to surgery I went. Thankfully a friend stayed with my sons at night, and their babysitter brought them to and picked them up from school. It was 2000, the internet was not common in households, no Facetime, no texting.

Looking after mom post surgery

I was in a lot of pain and had tubes coming out of me after surgery and I was afraid to let my boys see me right away so we spoke on the phone daily. After a few days when the tubes came out my friend brought them over to visit me. I was told walking would be good, so I asked them each to take a hand and walk me around the hallway. They took pride in being able to walk slowly with me and guide me through the hospital corridors. A week later I was discharged and home.

Settling into our new normal

I was on disability from work and it was the first time I was a stay at home Mom and I loved it. I used to drop them off at school on my way to work and their babysitter would pick them up. I was finally able to pick them up myself and as a working single mom always on the go and always time-clocking, I considered myself lucky as I recuperated from surgery and sat on the school bench with the other mothers, waiting for the school day to end and have our children come out and run over to us.

All was well and we got back into a normal routine until my first follow up appointment when I found out that I was Stage 3 and needed follow-up chemotherapy. My chemo treatments started and my hair started falling out. My sons saw my mom’s hair fall out from chemo and pass soon after so naturally they panicked. I assured them it was normal with my treatment and it will grow back and I am okay.

The toll treatment took on my sons

My sons seemed fine, but apparently they weren’t. Both loved school and had perfect attendance until my hair started falling out. Then every other day I would get a call from the school nurse that one twin or the other was in her office with a stomach ache and I needed to pick him up. When I got there, whichever twin I was called in for would miraculously be fine and ask to go for ice cream or sit in the park. I realized they needed to see me, spend extra time with me, and know I was alright. My heart broke for them.

I saw their fear increase as my hair loss increased. Trying to ease them into the situation, I asked them if they wanted to give me a haircut, that they each could have one side to cut however they wanted. They got really excited by that idea, the fear left their faces and they were more worried about the other staying on their own side of my head!

My sons are always there for me

For some reason, my haircut was the turning point. I no longer got calls from the school nurse and I no longer saw fear in their eyes. That was almost 19 years ago and although I live with residual anxiety, I try not to dwell on it and pass it off to my sons. We openly discuss it as adults now and with all the medical advances being made we are all optimistic that I will be around for many years to come.

Read Part I of Telling My Children I Have Lung Cancer.

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