It feels only logical to tell my story in the order of events. Not to dwell on the trauma but to move through it. I am sensitive to the feelings of those around me who have experienced this journey with me and the fact that they are all processing their own emotions.
Our children, particularly, have had much to deal with. They have been incredibly brave and we are immensely proud of the way they have shown strength and resilience beyond their years.
As parents we all want to protect our children from the harshness that can sometimes be life. We know through our own experiences what they may be faced with as they grow up. It seems cruel for children to go through events that are hard enough to process as an adult. They don’t have the neurological wiring to go through the emotional journey the same as we, their parents, do.
Phil and I have not encouraged any of our kids to read my blog. They know about it and support me but at the same time they don’t want to relive the sadness, which I completely understand. They will read it when they are ready.
The saddest day of my breast cancer journey was the day we told the kids. This story is about them…
Picking up from my second blog “The Day I Asked the Loaded Question…”, I found out my diagnosis on Friday 15th October, 2015. We had no idea what my situation was at this point and had to get through the agonising wait until the follow up with my GP on the Monday. We decided not to tell the kids until we knew more about what we were faced with so that we could give them the facts and try not to confuse them any more than we knew they already would be. I picked the kids up that Friday afternoon and we went about our night acting as normal as we could. They never knew why my beautiful best friend came to visit with wine and flowers, or why we sat on my bed for hours talking and crying together.
On the Monday I had my appointment with my GP to follow up the results from the biopsy. The official report still wasn’t through in time but we went ahead and organised the referral and appointment to see the surgeon. Thankfully, a lovely lady (who I will always be very grateful to, and she knows who she is) was able to fit me in the next day, Tuesday, to review the results and find out my options for a medical plan. We had a very long conversation and went through all the details of the type of breast cancer I had and options for surgery and treatment.
The first step was to have bone scans to check if the cancer had spread.
The next twenty four hours were the scariest in my life.
After the appointment with the surgeon on Tuesday we decided to collect my children early from school and sit them down and give them the news. We felt that we couldn’t leave it any longer, they needed to know.
I felt sick.
All the memories of my Dad giving me the news about Mum came flooding back. I knew how this was going to feel for them to hear what we were about to tell them.
We picked up the two younger ones and got a message to the eldest one to leave school and meet us at home as soon as possible. They knew something was up and would not stop asking questions. They asked if it was “something bad” because they knew that in our family, when we have a “family meeting” it usually means there is something big to say.
It was an unsettling, awkward few minutes in anticipation of how I knew their world was about to turn upside down.
We all sat down in the lounge together and I said to them…
“I have a lump in my boob.”
They…were…shattered. And we were heartbroken watching them be consumed by shock and despair.
We all cried together. For the first time in my children’s lives, I had no idea how to help them. I wanted to take their pain away and make everything okay but I just couldn’t. Their first reaction was of the fear that the same would happen to me as had happened to my Mum and Grandmother. They knew that story and it had just become very real for them.
Phil and I didn’t have many answers for their questions, we still didn’t really know what was happening ourselves. We were still waiting on blood screening results to come through and I was scheduled for the bone scan the next day. We didn’t tell them about that appointment, they had enough to think about already.
And then something amazing happened.
Amidst the fear, sadness and shock we all felt, one by one the kids were all able to say to us that they felt that everything would be okay. Phil and I also had a knowing that I would survive and get through, and here were my children all saying the same. Somehow, we were all able to see past the trauma of the situation and understand that even though there was a big scary journey ahead everything really was going to be fine.
The next morning my kids got up, as normal, and went to school. I gave them the option to stay home but they just wanted to do what was normal for them and have their support network of their friends around them. I know I have brought up my kids to be independent and strong but I did not expect them to be so incredibly stoic. There was much to process, and maybe there was an element of denial, but keeping their routine as “normal” as possible was a high priority and showed us that was what they needed as part of their ability to cope.
A couple of days after telling my kids, we then had to go through it all again and tell Phil’s kids. Again, we had to turn our family life upside down with fear and uncertainty. Again, we cried many tears together as we slowly explained what was going to happen next and what they could expect.
Our children have certainly had difficult times throughout my journey. But they have drawn strength from each other, our families and close friends. They have been able to support each other through times like school holidays when family time should have been filled with fun activities and laughter. For all that time, while I went through chemo, we rarely ventured out. There were many weekends that I spent in bed and I wouldn’t see them during the day. It was very confronting for them to see all that they have. But they rallied together, carried on with life, accepted the situation and still managed to laugh along the way.
We have all had our wobbly moments emotionally. And there have been the normal pressures of life, parenting, school, finances and even just getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other.
To watch the kids move through this life education has been an incredible journey in itself. They have been patient, understanding, empathetic and strong. Qualities that many adults struggle to display! This life experience has changed them, and who knows, maybe their future lives too. To be aware and live life through those qualities shows me that these amazing little humans have much to look forward to.
And as for that bone scan? It was all clear…