Yeah, I know. Brutal. Here's how it went.
The kids (3.5 and almost 5) and I were sitting on the floor near the kitchen. It was Friday morning, the day I was going to start up chemo. We were still in our jammies, climbing all over each other, playing, and it felt like "the time".
"Hey guys! Guys! Listen to mama for a minute! Hey, you know how sometimes you go into the doctor when you're sick? And they give you medicine?"
Betty: "Like when I got the ear bafection. And they gave me that pink medicine. It was SPICY."
Me: "Yes! Just like that! Sometimes you get ear infections. Sometimes Rho-Rho gets croup. Sometimes we get the flu and we throw up? Well, mommy went to the doctor a few days ago, and I have a kind of sick, too. Mine's called, 'cancer'. And so I am going to have to get medicine for it, so I can get better, too."
The kids kept playing, only mildly interested. Quietly, Rhodes tried out the word. "KEN-SER."
I continued, "So, the funny thing is, for this kind of sick, they do a different kind of medicine. It's not like ibuprofin or tylenol, the pink and red types I give you when you feel yucky and are sick. It's not the spicy kind, either. The kind I will get is called 'chemo'. That's the word for it, 'chemo'. And the funny thing is, I have to take it for THREE DAYS in a row. See this little bump in mommy's shoulder? They put the medicine in here, and I'll come home with a big bandaid, and I'll take the medicine for a few days. Then, I'll go back to the doctor, they'll take the medicine off, then I don't have to take it again for TWO MORE WEEKS! Isn't that different?"
Betty: "Ha! That's long!"
Me: "I know! And the way you take this kind of medicine is, you take it for lots and lots of months! Then, after a long time, you get better."
Me: "And sometimes the medicine will make me feel a little tired, so daddy and other friends might play with you more on those days."
The kids were rapidly losing interest. Rhodes had grabbed a plane and was rolling away from me. So I quick summed up, "So. That's what mommy's doing today, getting some medicine, and I just wanted to let you know!"
They haven't talked about it since, although during that 3-day span, both kids pointed at my shoulder area once, which was covered with tape and bandages. I wore big, boxy clothes to hide all the tubing and the vial of chemo underneath. No need to flaunt it and invite conversation. But I wanted them to hear the words from me, presented in a non-scary and factually correct way, so if they hear them again moving forward, they aren't surprised or confused.
P.S--I hope this post wasn't dreadfully depressing to read. I just thought some of you might have wondered how we were handling the ''kids" aspect of this. I'm happy with how it went, and my hope is that, one day, they will be able to look back with the heightened awareness that age brings, and think, "Mom and Dad, you did a really good job with all that stuff, because somehow, I barely even remember it ever happening."