How do I explain I have terminal cancer to my 8 and 5 year old? How can I help my 14 year old deal?

Edna - posted on 11/05/2010 ( 22 moms have responded )

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A year ago, I found out I had stage 4 breast cancer, did treatment and still am. A month ago, found out it has went to my brain. This changes so much and what time I may have with my kids is shortened. Any idea's how and when to talk with them?

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Eliz - posted on 11/20/2012

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Edna

I too have a 5 and an 8 year old child, I too have stage iv cancer. It was a bit different for me because I was an oncology nurse so my kids had a basic understnding that our bodies are made of cells and that I took care of people who had "bad cells" growing in their bodies. But that is where we started. We often wrap our conversations around faith and love experiences. We talk about taking a kiss with them to school. A kiss in each plam and then fold their hand around it.. If they need me durring the day they can take a moment think a happy thought of me and feeel my hug / love with them. Then we stretched that to that love is a part of us, part of our soul (we are Christian - if you are not you can use what ever your faith allows for) we talk about people or pets that have died and how we can pause and still feel the love we whared wth that person even when they are in the next part of life. We talk about never being alone as long as we have love in our heart even just ne little drop of love. It can grow and grow.



When we talk about my treatments I often just explain that it is what I need to do to be able to stay right here with them as long as I can. I focus on where I am strong in life instead of what or where I am feeling ill.

The answer is not easy, and its not fair, not for them. I tell them they can ask/ tell me anything and I wil always give them the most honest answer I have. Including having to admit that I don't know the answer to many questions.

My feeling has been that we need to be honest so there is never a question of trust and we need to tell them what will effect their lives. They need to know what might lie ahead but that we need to keep things at their level of understanding and answer only the questions they ask.



do you find that you feel you should be doing some great video that is filled every life lesson for them? I often feel like there should be some special book or video but I just cant do that. I feel a bit guilty. I am well now....why not do it now...but then I just fwwl it would be so weird.

My kids also both see a psychologist. They started off thinking it was an art lesson but the 8 yr old is more aware of the purpose of her visit now. The don't really have any issues but I want them to have established a relationship with someone before they may need it. So they are already comfortable. I guess I am a little bit of a control freak.



Edna, I hope this helps even a little and I wish you the best. I know the "odds" don't look good but they are numbers and you are not a number. Hang in there and just love them the best you can, that is all any mom can do.

I don't feel as alone as I used to .... sometimes cancer can make you feel that way.

Louise - posted on 11/13/2010

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Edna don't give up just yet keep fighting this. But, you need to prepare your 14 year old who is old enough to understand what is going on and really needs to know so that he/she can process this and ask all those questions that need to be asked. Also your 8 and 5 year old need to know that you are seriously ill but not told to much as to frighten them. There is no easy way of telling them they are your kids and only you know how much imformation they can handle and which way to tell them. Try as much as you can to stay positive and go about giving them memories of you. My sister in law left a 2.5 year old and a 7 year old behind when she passed and they have a memory box full of pictures of them and mum together and letters that she wrote to them. Her 7 year old knew mummy was very sick and she involved him in putting things in this box. They both cherish this box and now they are 16 and 20. Make the most of your good days and fill that box with memories for your children. Edna my preyers are with you I hope you can find the energy and courage to face these dark days ahead with the children and I hope with all my heart that you can fight this disease for many years. But I urge you to write to them and put those letters to one side. My sister in law wrote a letter for the first Christmas and childrens 21st birthdays and wedding days and first babies as well as letters to be read at any time. She wanted to let them know that she was always around and her memory has always stayed alive throught the memory box. Start yours today it will bring them so much comfort. God Bless.

Michelle - posted on 11/11/2010

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Im so sorry to hear this. I couldnt imagine trying to tell my children this. I didnt read all the post, so if I repeat something already said, please forgive me.
My Mom-in-law has been very sick for sometime now. She wanted all the grandchildren to remember her when she is gone. So she went out and bought all the girls diamond rings. They all match, and when they turn 16 they get the ring. For the boys she bought gold chain necklaces. She did spend alot of money on these gifts, but it doesnt matter how much you spend. It could be something very small, but would mean the world to them.
Ive also heard of Mothers, or even Fathers writing letters to their children. Write letters for when they turn 16, 18,21, etc. For their graduation, wedding, birthdays. The letters could be endless. Give them to a trusted family memeber who can give them out when the time arrives.
I will keep you and your children in my prayers. God Bless

Cibby - posted on 11/11/2010

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Edna,
you have been given some greta advise, take from it what will helpfull words words that fiir your sisuation, speak to others, it is like your cancer it has spread, and yes everyone has an a differant opinion, but only you know what is right for you and your child. Leaving your son or writing down your life's journey, with pictures, so your child can remeber you and know what a strong and beautiful women you are, that you.can fought through this horrable tiime in your life. Every small memory adds up to a huge one. It is hard to put on a brave face, but I make it through each day, letting my children know how much I love them. Sue is right we never know how much time we have, and there are days when I can not even get out of bed, or type on the lap top, but I still see and talk to my youngest that still live in our home, and talk about what kind of day they have had, something we always did at dinner time, but is know I do if I am wake when they get home from school, as as soon as I get myself pulled enough together to make it to the living room, I talk yo each one of my boys, and check on them to see things are going as good as can be in 7th and 9th grade. and listen to them ( we do not always speak about the cancer, but if they have any questions, they know they can ask. I write down things a lot all kinds of things, it does not matter what as long as I feel my heart is lighter when I am done, and I have left something for my children to ready when ever they so choose to.

Cibby - posted on 11/10/2010

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Dear Edna, I was told I had stage 4 breast cancer, and would not hve more then two years to live, I have four children, my youngest was 6, and my oldest was getting married the Monday I was told. We did not tell her untill she returned from her hoonymoon. The rest of my kids we told that night. They new I had been for biopies at Stanford, so they had been aware that something could be wrong, or could me major. They all had differant reaction, as they all have differant personalities. My husband and I have allways told them what has to be done, surgeries, chemo, and raditions. I do not know your relationship with your child, but all I can say is to be as open and honest about what you are going through, it might just be me, but I feel that this leaves no unanswered questions, about what happens when I pass, My children will have known everything and have seen what cancer can do to someone they love. It is not a pretty, but it is the harsh truth of it. Most of my adult friends could not handle it and just stoped calling, coming by, or having anything to do with me. I hope you have a greats supoort system, I wish I had better information on how to talk with your child, but you know your child best, so ask yourshelf, how would you like your child to know, from strangers, from other family memebers, your from the person that is going through it. Like I said I was told two years, it has been six, I have never been in remission, nor will I, but I fight the fight I have every day so that I can be around as long as I can, my cancer has also gone to my brain, I ave done my radiation treatments, and they have had enough time go by that thery have done another MRI, and yes it is still there, but the major mass have shrunk concinderably.

I hope I have not been to frank, but I just tell it like it is for me, it is not always the case for others, but be strong, I have been told way to many times that I will not make it. Well there is one one person who knows the answer to that.

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Edna - posted on 11/21/2010

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THANK YOU ALL FOR THE ADVISE! I will be moving to MT right after X-mas so my mother can help me with my children, and if the worst happens, they will be settled and in school up North, hopefuly making the transition alittle easier. (I want my mom to raise my kids if I cant.)

Lee - posted on 11/17/2010

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Wow - that is a tough one. I have often thought of this throughout my children's growing up and I wrote letters in the event that something unexpected happened to me. I wrote one for each birthday for each child, with emphasis on dating, boys, sex etc for my girls 15th birthday and another to be given to them at high school graduation, college graduation and one for their wedding day and the birth of their first child. I am so sorry that you are faced with this - my heart is holding yours.
Lee Ann

Melissa - posted on 11/16/2010

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Terri, you just reminded me of the tape that I had my mom talk to me on in the last weeks of her life. I told her I wanted to remember her voice 10 years from now. It is so precious.. it was 1983 so not as much stuff was available back then. It is so nice. That tape. I have played it for my kids and the last thing she says.. She told me like she always said, "your my sunshine girl" I was in the background. I had been told to vacuum the house for my Godmother who had flown in for a visit. Its cute cuz I am complaining that I had just cleaned the day before. It was a normal day, caught on tape. Then I start the vacuum, and my mom says, "I don't think THAT'S what you wanted to hear, be right back".... click.... thats the end of the tape. Nothing else, but.. no tearful good-bye, just "be right back" Perfect..

Melissa - posted on 11/16/2010

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Cibby, God Bless you and your family. Stanford? My Mom was treated at Travis AFB. We lived in Sacramento at the time. I understand what your saying as my Mom was honest with us also. I was 8 and my brothers were 15 and 16 when we were told. When I was just 15 she passed.. My brothers were 22 and 23. They became my legal guardians. I was able to live in our home and finish High School with all the people I had known. This was so important and shaped my future.
My brothers became like fathers and guided me through my teenage years. They have never given up on me and are STILL there for me all the time. I am 42 they are 49 and 50. God had a plan for my life, as he did my Mother. We survived as a family, that was the most important thing to her...
Melissa

Melissa - posted on 11/16/2010

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Edna, I have written so many things to your post, but, like I said, this is my childhood.. I want you to know that I FEEL my mother with me.. I know she was there when my children were born, and other special even ordinary days.
One time, I lost her ring when I was in college. I realized that it fell out of my lap when I got out of the car that morning... I went at midnight with a tiny flashlight to the gravel parking lot to look for her ring. (she passed with it on her finger, I kissed her hand and took off the ring the day she died.. now I always had her with me)
That night I went to look for the ring.. it seemed impossible to cover a football size parking lot, gravel and no lines... I did like 10 grid style searches.. It was about 1am.. I was in tears, I looked up to heaven and said, "Mom, PLEASE HELP ME!" I dropped to my knees in tears. Then, I stood up, walked diagonal about 15 feet in the opposite direction and in an almost moonless night, her ring sparkled to me. She led me to that ring... I was still crying but I looked up and said "THANK YOU, MOM! I LOVE YOU" She was with me that night.. I just know it

Melissa

Melissa - posted on 11/16/2010

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The letters for special days is great!! When my husband passed, he didn't have that chance, but at his oldest daughters wedding, she had his picture at the alter, like he had walked her down the isle.. very moving and loving...

Melissa - posted on 11/16/2010

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Deanna.. My son was 3 when his father was killed.. Like you said, there is no letter to read, no time to say I love you. He is now 21 and I have tried to do my best to tell him about his Dad.. And as in my previous post I said how my mom passed from cancer when I was 15, but it she told me when I was 8.. As I grew up, we cried together and laughed and she answered all questions with truth. I am now 42 and miss her everyday, and miss my husband. She passed in 1983, then he died in 1993.. Death is terrible..

Melissa - posted on 11/16/2010

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OMG. I am so sorry Edna... I was 8 when my mom told us kids she had breast cancer, she fought and lasted until I just turned 15, then she passed at home, with me and my 2 older brothers... It was the most difficult time of my life, but.. my Mom took those years of knowing she wasn't going to be here long and taught us everything she ever thought we would want to know.. I remember some, not all.. I want to talk to her all the time. She died in 1983. I am now 42 with 2 children of my own and we talk about her as if they knew who she was.. I pass on all that my Mom told me, and they "know" her...

If you EVER need to talk to someone who KNOWS what your kids are going through.. CONTACT ME.. anytime.. REALLY REALLY REALLY...

Love and kindness to you and your family,
Melissa

Terri - posted on 11/16/2010

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I'm so sorry to hear of your diagnosis, as well.

If this was said, I missed it, but how about a video diary to each child? The written word is wonderful, too, but actual video speaking to your child would be such a treasure to them.

There's a movie called "Sunshine" from the 70's that's just incredible. The mother has cancer and she leaves behind a tape recorded diary for her daughter of things she wants her to know about as she's growing up.

Sending you love and light!

Anne - posted on 11/12/2010

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Edna I can not add anything to what you have already been already been offered by these great moms. I can and will keep you and your family in my Prayers.

Sue - posted on 11/10/2010

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when my children were little I decided to talk very openly with them...because my parents did not do this and so often I was confused and feeling lost. Edna if you know Jesus, then you know life does not end with a death on earth but just moves through a door so to speak. When we recieve Jesus we take His life and conquer death with Him...so I tell my children that death is like going through a door and i can't see who is on the other side just yet but when I get through I will see my dearest Jesus and my family that recieved Him and went before me... I also explained death by putting a glove on my hand... my hand is the spirit...the glove is my body...when the spirit leaves the body ( pull off the glove) the body has no life in it. but the spirit still lives it lives in Heaven and waits for the day when we will see eachother again. Life is terminal but some people have someone tell them that and others do not. I took my kids to funerals of people they knew so they could experience that and I was glad I had done all that when my 16 yearold daughter died suddenly in a car accident Dec of 1999. They were not scared...they understood loss, they cried and picked up life and went forward...it was difficult for my youngest two because they were preborn and 18 mos... but being open about all of it helps...and it is okay to say you will miss them...and great to write a few letters to be opened at special times...I did that even though I was planning to be "here", just in case, because you never know really...when your time will come. You will be in my prayers... Love in Jesus, Sue

Edna - posted on 11/10/2010

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THANK YOU! Everything you said makes so much since. I believe in my heart, that I will be able to watch them grow, when I'm gone, but it doesn't make it any easier.

Edna - posted on 11/10/2010

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I love the letter idea! I love them so much and I feel I'm being robbed from their life. On good days, I try to do special things, little things that they will always remember!

Edna - posted on 11/10/2010

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My kids know I have cancer. They seen me so sick with chemo last year. Statistic wise I had 5 years then. In Sep. when it moved to the brain, I asked not to know the statistics. I don't wanna give up, or do a count down. At X-Mas break I'm gonna move to Montana with my Mom. That way when things do get to bad she will be there,.

Julianna - posted on 11/10/2010

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Kids are smarter and more accepting than you think. Just talk to them in words they'll understand. They most likely already know somethings not right and their imaginations will make it worse than if you tell them the truth. I believe children are closer to heaven and still able to hear what the angels whisper. You might be suprised to find the youngest knows your going to heaven already. My niece knew I had miscarried before anyone had told her. Ever night she had prayed for my baby, but she suddenly stopped. My sister didn't tell her for a few more days, and her answer was, "I know mommy, the angels told me they took the baby back to heaven." Just that simple.
I'm not saying it will be that simple for your children, especially the older ones, but children respond best to truth. It will make it easier on them in the long run.
I like the suggestions I've seen on making memories with them. Spend the time you have left loving them and that's what they'll remember, their mommy loved them very very much. I am so sorry you won't get to see them grow up. Write a letter for each to open on a specific special day, like their wedding day or the birth of their first child. That way, in some sence, you'll be there with them for that once in a lifetime experience. I hope you take advantage of hocpice. It's a great program and if you call your local chapter, they may be able to help you with ways to talk to your children.
Try RTS(Resolve Through Sharing) it's a bereivment orginasation that would have counselors somewhere near you to help you with this. ( Sorry my spelling is terrible tonight. It's time for me to go to bed.) If you google it, it'll come up I promise. You and your family will be in my prayers. I hope this helps in some way.

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I am so sorry. My DH and I have been through this as we both lost our previous spouses and still had little ones at home. Our youngest child (Dale's child) was only 5 when her mother passed away. It is hard to explain to a child that young. You just have to try. Make as many memories as you can. My DH and I have talked about how we looked all in our bedrooms hoping our spouse had left us a special letter for after they were gone. They didn't. We promised each other that we would do that. I have already wrote letters to my children in case anything ever happens to me. I make new ones occasionally. If you feel like it maybe you can make some special scrapbooks for each one. Just talk to your children and be honest with them.

Deanna - posted on 11/07/2010

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First off, I am very sorry to hear about your diagnoses. You and your family are in my prayers.
I think the most important thing you can do for your children is to be honest with them. I'm sure they already know that you have cancer. Now is the time to let them know what the doctors have told you about the cancer being in your brain, how much time you may have, and what to expect. I would imagine that they know things are not good. I think it's hard for us as parents to not show some sort of emotion that kids won't pick up on. The longer you put off talking to them, the more fearful they will become.

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