My youngest daughter came home from school yesterday excitedly telling me about a story she had written. They had to write about something that had meaning for them. She wrote about cancer. She’s ten. My initial thought was “Oh God that’s awful! Why think of cancer?” I felt sad that cancer has touched our family in a way that my children think about it, when in school writing a comprehension. I felt cross that she hadn’t spoken about her dog, or a memorable holiday, or a cake she had made. Not cross with her, cross with cancer. We spoke about it, the story, what had been written. She was very pleased with it, “it was really good, mum! It was about a child who had an anonymous call from the ‘C’ word, it told her it was coming to get her. She had felt scared so had put down the phone, only to confront it and call it back. To ask what it meant. It told her it meant it was inside her growing.” As you can imagine I was walking her back to the car thinking f***! F***! While smiling sweetly and saying that sounds a great story! Not! It sounds like you thought about it in great detail and added lots of drama for effect, not sure where she gets it from.
All the time I was thinking I’ve dealt with this all wrong. My children are scared cancer is coming for them. I thought I’d read enough about what to say to children about cancer. To be as honest as possible without scaring them with statistics. And I had spoken openly about it to them. Eventually. It did take me about six months before I actually told them and I probably should have told them sooner and I regret leaving it so long. But we are now able to talk about it. We just don’t that much as there are more important and fun things to talk about. They decided they didn’t want to read the blog as they find it upsetting but they always ask me to tell them the funny bits. My middle daughter roared with laughter at ‘The fault in our stars’ bit. “That’s so funny!” She was squealing while wiping away laughter tears, ” I got you to watch a cancer film when you had cancer!” Hysterical, obviously!
So I was a little concerned that I had missed something. Perhaps not seen some worries or that she was just unable to express them. I was also a little curious as to what her teacher had said, as I was sure she wouldn’t have just read it without comment. I was right. My daughter was asked why she had chosen that subject? She had replied with confidence “because my mum had a little bit of eye cancer. She’s better now, she just can’t see that well, but an injection might make it better.” My cancer story summed up in two sentences. I don’t think I need to continue the blog.
When we got home she wanted to read me the story she was so chuffed with it. It made me realise that I’m not the only family member who deals with the cancer emotions by writing. She does too and it allows us to discuss her fears, something she probably wouldn’t have thought of on her own. Writing things down allows you to reflect on your experiences. Hers at the moment seem to be a worry that she will get cancer. Something we need to speak about and reassure her about a lot over the coming months. The other thing I thought was that we have so many happy memories every day. I laugh a lot with my children, they are all very funny. I know at the moment it is still early days but I hope to get to a stage in the future where when someone asks for a memorable event, cancer won’t be the forefront of everybody’s mind, but instead we will be back on track with stories about the dog or a memorable holiday or a cake we had all made.