I have been thinking about how to tell My Eldest Son about the cancer since the first minute I heard it when he was in the car with me. I have read about how to do it, I have worried about it and have decided to talk to him in the car as per expert advice.
We were driving to his final first communion practice and I told him, “My Eldest Son, I went for a check up and the doctor found a lump in my breast. They had to take it off and now that it is gone, I have to take some really strong medicine that is going to make my hair fall out. So, before my hair starts to fall out, I am going to shave my head. The medicine is going to make me sick and tired a lot and I might be really crabby.”
“Oh, that’s going to be weird. How long will you not have hair for?”
“It should start to come back around Christmas time.”
“That’s a long time.”
“Yes. But I will wear wigs and it shouldn’t look too bad.”
“My Eldest Son, I want you to know that the name of what I have is called Breast Cancer.”
“CANCER!!! CANCER!!” He is shouting at the top of his voice. “You have CANCER!!!!!.”
Yes, My Eldest Son I have Cancer. Where did you hear that word before?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“What do you mean you can’t tell me. You must tell me. That is how you get stomach aches.”
“Cancer is what Uncle Mickey has and Uncle Mickey is dying.”
“Oh, My Eldest Son. I am sorry. I don’t have what Uncle Mickey has. Cancer is a word that means many things. It is a word like infection. There are hundreds of different types of cancer just like there are hundreds of different infections. I don’t have what Uncle Mickey has and I am not going to die.”
He calmed down just a little bit. I had completely forgotten about Uncle Mickey. My brother-in-law the perpetually inappropriate and never-ending talker had just spent Easter with us talking about Uncle Mickey’s impending death in great detail.
Uncle Mickey was his uncle but essentially filled the role of father for my brother-in-law and faithful companion to my mother. He was an ever-present component of their house in ways that neither of his parents or my father were a big presence in our lives. My brother-in-law, My Sister’s Husband, was distraught about his impending death and spent all of Easter vacation talking about it. I had completely and totally forgotten about it as I did not associate myself at all with him…but My Eldest Son immediately made the connection.
I tell him that I will keep him up to date on every part of my treatment. He asks if he will get it because I have it. I say, “No. It is something that only women can get so you won’t ever have to worry about it.”
He knows all about genetic inheritance because he knows his asthma, sinus disease and reflux all come from his father. He knows all about medications because he takes so many and he knows about their side effects.
Well, at least it was out in the open. My Eldest Son went into the church while I parked the car. That was the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life and I find even writing about it to be quite painful.
I worry about being around for my children. I am so old in having them I really wonder if it was a mistake but to even think such a thing is to negate their existence. I worry about whether or not I will be able to stick around for another 30-40 years to take care of them and be a part of their lives.
I consider my body not my own but something that must be dedicated to being around to being part of their lives. Every doctor’s appointment, every surgery, every IV, doesn’t matter because it brings me one step closer to my goal of being part of their lives.
It was wrong to keep My Eldest Son in the dark these past several weeks. Of course, he wasn’t in the dark but was rather manifesting my own anxiety through his nightly attacks.but I couldn’t see how to tell him until I knew what was wrong and it took so long for the plan to be clear and all the tests to come back. But it was wrong, and I still have not figured out how to protect them from my own feelings on the matter.