My daughter is 6. We've talked about cancer and chemo with her before, although as she grows, we find ourselves having to go over things again with her. And with each revised conversation, there are more questions, as one would expect from a child with a quick, ever-developing mind.
You never know when your favorite person in the world is going to blindside you with a hard-hitting, gut-wrenching question. And your answer is as vitally important as the question itself. So you have to be ready, at all times. The way I navigate that minefield is by simply offering her the truth.
The truth, wrapped in a soft cozy blanket.
Today, as we were driving home from swim lessons, she asked me if we could wake up early tomorrow, just the two of us, so we could play together before school. Aww. A request as sweet and benign as that made the reply a bit tougher to muster. "Well, hon, we could get up really early to play for a little bit, but Mommy DOES have to leave early because I have chemo tomorrow."
Her response was passionate. "What? NO! WHY? NOT AGAIN! I THOUGHT YOU WERE TAKING A BREAK FROM CHEMO! I HATE CHEMO! PLEASE DON'T GO TO CHEMO, I HATE IT SO MUCH! IT MAKES YOU SO TIRED!" Insult to injury. I told her that I hated it, too, and it was no fun, but it was what my doctor said I needed to do now. She grimaced and complained some more. Then a smirk spread across her face, and she asked, "What if your doctor told you that you had to get a new TV? Would you do that?" We both laughed. I told her I probably would. The car got quiet. Then she asked, "Wait...WHY do you have to do chemo again, anyway?" Ugh, not this one again. So I told her, "Well, it's medicine, remember how we talked about this? It's for that thing mommy has, that thing called 'cancer', remember? Cancer is a kind of sick. Chemo helps keep the cancer from making me get sick. It's stupid, I know, that I have to take medicine for THIS LONG, but that's the way it goes." She thought about this for a second, then said, "Mommy! Did you remember to pack my ponies in your bag?" Ok. Cancer conversation complete, I guess.
So she's up to speed. And she seems ok with it. Her biggest concern is my fatigue. She isn't aware of the big picture yet. I'm grateful for that.
And yet, I think she senses there's a fragility to me, almost as if she feels I'm a precious gift she doesn't want to take for granted. Toweling off after her bath tonight, she told me, "Do you know how I spell 'love'? It's 'M-O-M-M-Y.'"
I will never stop fighting.