I have three kids. When I found the lump in my neck, my youngest was about three weeks old, my middle child was only two and my oldest was almost eight. Of course the younger two were too little to understand what was going on, but my daughter was scared. She didn’t know what was going on and I didn’t know what to say to her. Sitting down with her, trying to find a way to explain to her what cancer is, what it can do, and that I had it was one of the hardest things I have ever done and in retrospect I probably did it all wrong.
We found out I had cancer on a Friday. My husband took me to the doctor. When we got home, he went into work, shared with his boss the situation and was immediately sent home. On Sunday, we went to church and I shared that I had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I am a firm believer in the power of prayer and I wanted prayers right away. We had only lived in Arizona about three months so I was amazed at the outpouring of emotion I saw there. People were praying for me, hugging me, crying… there was an outpouring of emotion that was not at all what I had expected. Up until this point, I hadn’t really talked with my daughter about what was happening beyond saying I was sick, but when she saw people crying and hugging me, she started to realize the severity of the situation. At this point, I knew I should have talked with her prior to sharing it with other people. Hindsight is 20/20.
You never want to tell your kids you might be dying. I didn’t want to scare her. I never mentioned the word cancer or talked about dying, although she eventually realized that lymphoma is cancer and cancer is deadly. But I never said I wouldn’t die either. I didn’t want to lie, and that’s a real possibility when you have cancer. Ultimately, I just shared that I had something called lymphoma, and that even though I didn’t look or feel sick right now, there was a sickness in my body that I had to fight. And that fight, going through chemo, was going to make me a lot sicker before I got better. I think presenting it that way was a good way to explain it – she was prepared for me to be sick and knew that it was normal, nothing to be scared about.
Now we are past it, I have been trying to pay it forward. My husband, the kids, and I participate in walks to raise money for Lymphoma research and I think it really increases their awareness of how many people this affects. Being diagnosed with cancer is not something that just happened to us – it’s something that changed our lives – and from the other side of that journey, I can see that it was a blessing. Nothing but good has come from this and now I want to make sure that my kids can see that. Even in times of adversity, search for the positive.