If you are diagnosed with cancer when you have young children, you're faced with what to share with them and how to share it.
It is important to realize that cancer affects the entire family and not just the person with cancer. As a member of that family, children have the right to be included.
Children can usually sense when something is wrong. And they will likely overhear the word "cancer" when you're talking with someone else. If you tell them the truth, they can focus on the reality rather than the even scarier things in their imagination.
When you talk with your children, it is important to use language they understand and to be sensitive to their concerns.
Here are a few suggestions:
Sometimes children will ask the difficult question, "Are you going to die?" Breastcancer.org provides an illustration of a good answer: "The doctors have told me that my chances of being cured are very good. I'm going to believe that until I have reason to believe something else. I want you to believe that too. I'll tell you if that changes."
We all want these conversations to go perfectly, but don't be hard on yourself if you get tongue-tied or emotional. It's a hard time for everyone. Kids understand that, too.
Bob is the Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appear regularly in the Ithaca Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reprinted with Permission of the Ithaca Journal
Original publication date: March 12, 2011.