• How do you tell a 13, 10, and 9 year old you have terminal cancer without crushing them?

    Asked by mommyof3 on Sunday, December 9, 2012

    How do you tell a 13, 10, and 9 year old you have terminal cancer without crushing them?

    12 Answers from the Community

    12 answers
    • FreeBird's Avatar

      The National Cancer Institute www.cancer.gov and the American Cancer Society www.cancer.org have information on communicating with children. You can contact them directly for more information. Here is an example http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/advancedcancer/page7

      That's a difficult situation with an advanced cancer. I think honesty is the best way to go, and to let them know that they are going to continue to be taken care of no matter what. The love isn't going anywhere. At the same time that it's a horrible thing, it's also an opportunity that people who die suddenly do not have a chance to do-- to help them cope with these events before they are suddenly thrust onto them with an event, and to find help for them if they need it. My heart goes out to you and your family. When I was a young boy, my mom was very ill, and I was told she was going to die. I was probably 11 or 12. She ended up living after a period of illness. I think from that perspective, I wanted to know that I was going to be okay. I also would have liked something tangible-- a photograph and a letter or something-- to cope with the feeling that I was going to lose the memory of my mom. Of course you never forget, but that's what went through my head at the time. Many many years later, I can even remember the people sitting in the waiting room in the hospital. Emotions can sometimes be difficult, but they also have a way of burning memories into our brains. Give them something special to remember, and reach out to specialists who deal with this all day every day.

      over 8 years ago
    • Harry's Avatar

      Welcome to the site. Our hearts go out to you and your family.

      It's a very difficult question, but I agree with FreeBird that honesty is best. Your kids will figure it out on their own and that won't be better. I don't know what your prognosis is, but many people on this site have been told that they will die in six months, a year, or two years--and are here long after that date has past. So maybe there is hope. You can ask the kids to help you cope and to help take care of each other. Make them part of your fight and not burdens. That may help them cope. And tell them you love them. Never let them forget that.

      over 8 years ago
    • leepenn's Avatar

      Good afternoon - I'm so sorry you have to talk to your children about this. What a difficult thing.

      Here in Minnesota, we have an organization called Minnesota Angel, and this program specifically works with families dealing with an adult with a cancer diagnosis. We have all ranges of cancer diagnoses, from stage i all the way to stage iv. So, what I'm wondering is whether there is an organization like this one in Virginia? Perhaps someone at your clinic might have some information.

      We did a weekly series during which the kids and adults separated... and we all discussed things like what's appropriate to tell children at various ages... and the kids did some great stuff as well. Our child pretty much ONLY talked about cancer during events and activities through this organization - ONLY when he knew the other kids would have a clue what he was talking about.

      There's no doubt that it is a scary and difficult time... and I have absolutely no answers... but MN Angel (not affiliated with a religious organization, by the way) really made a huge difference for us. It helped us figure out how to have those conversations....

      I wish you the best - I hope that you are able to find something helpful....

      Best wishes,

      over 8 years ago
    • Nomadicme's Avatar

      Everything in life is temporary, I guess what I'd ask a psychologist if its better for children to know for a while about terminal illness, or is a compressed time period better? A friend's father died whe she was 14, but was diagnosed when she was 9. Her older sister and brother coped much better, to this day she suffers from depression. I have to wonder if her dad had concealed the nature of his illness early on and let her deal with it when he actually knew he had weeks to live, would she have been better? (She had years of fears of her father dying and then his death).
      Her family did NOT use any resources. The cancer community has come a long way since then, tap into the resources as there must be more positive ways that will help the children deal with such devastating loss. My thoughts are with you and your family.

      over 8 years ago
    • Peroll's Avatar

      Mommy, I am not going yo answer your question directly as others have done a better job of that. What I want to address is the use of terminal when describing cancer. I like you have colon cancer and have been fighting mine for 8 1/2 years. My cancer has spread several times but each time I beat it back. I have managed to hit the 5% probability 5 times in a row. Stastically speaking I should be dead, but I am not. The point of this that while cancer does kill people I do not believe in saying that it is terminal until the patient has lost the will to fight. Wityh you still being in treatment I think you still have the will to fight and your three kids are three vwery good reasons to fight on. Cancer research is making great strides, with new drugs and treatments all of the time. I personally have had at least two drugs and one surgery that were not available/possible back when I was first diagnosed. We here are more than willing to help you in your fight with knowledge and experie nce in how to find and get the latest and best treatments. Please lt us know how we can help you so that you can be one of the survivors!!!

      over 8 years ago
    • Carol-Charlie's Avatar

      Hi Mommy of 3... The others have given you great answers.. But really as the last poster said. Cancer can be deadly, but many times it can be beaten. I've always thought I was the one that got the dumb stuff... the bad stuff, etc. I was told immediately after my surgery for Stage IV Ovarian cancer that I had 'about' six months to live, by my oncologist. I feel back to sleep and... 'forgot' about it. I told my surgeon that I wanted to fight. and fight we did!!!! I was 62. I told my three sons in their late 30's and early 40's what I had and I was fighting hard to live! I did think that since my dad had died when I was 18 and he was 63, it had been in the back of my head I would die at 63 also. When diagnosed I briefly thought.. well dang, I won't even make 63.... I faught hard... I lost my hair, I lost my strength, I bloated from steroids... My hubby kept telling me I was beautiful.. (but then he's two years older)... we joked and laughed... I did kow I'd raised my children, but telling them was the hardest thing I've ever done. I fought and fought.... Two years of chemo (well just under two years)... Oh and the surgeon oncologist was the happiest of happy.... I don't know all the statistices.. but mommyof3...... It;s now 7 years later... I danced at my grandson's wedding in August. Held two great grand children and we're planning a party for my 70th birthday in May. Don't give up... and don't let your chidren give up. I'm betting on you. May you see two footprints in the sand, and relax when there are on one set.

      over 8 years ago
    • Lirasgirl33's Avatar

      Hi mommyof3, I myself am a mommy of 4. I have an 11, 14 and two 15 year olds. I told my kids I had cancer. I told them I would be going through treatment to kill it. I told them of the possible side effects I would experience. I told them I would probably lose my hair and that on some days mommy would be tired and sick and wouldn't look like myself. I told them on those days to make me smile. I haven't told them that me having cancer means I "could" die from it. I can't get myself to say that I "will" die from it. Why? Because I don't know that. I guess if the day ever came when I knew for a fact that I was on my way out, then I would handle things and explain things to them. I refuse to accept the 1-2 year expiration time that my chemo doc has given me. So I continue to fight.

      I personally don't think there is a way to tell our kids without making them sad. They love us, and we know that we all hurt when we lose someone we love. Like you though, I have thought about what I would say to them if that time did come around. I think my conversation with them would be based more on my faith and beliefs. I agree with Freebird as well. About giving them something tangible to remember you by. A letter from the heart. I usually don't like to think about what I would do, what I would say, if this disease did do me in because I feel like I'm giving it some sort of power over me. Which I know I'm not. What saddens me more is to think about the people that pass away accidentally without being able to say or prepare a goodbye. At least we have that, if it ever came to that. Sending hugs your way.

      over 8 years ago
    • NanaL's Avatar

      According to your info you were originally diagnosed with colon cancer in your early twenties? You fought this disease for nine years and you need to keep fighting. Like many others said there are some great clinical trials out there that you might be a candidate for. Why does your Dr say you are terminal? What has changed recently? I have stage IV metastatic rectal cancer and refuse to listen to the numbers and prognosis. I want you to hold onto your faith and hope. My heartfelt prayers to you and your family. May God's love surround you!!

      over 8 years ago
    • geekling's Avatar

      Life is terminal but we don't terrorize our children by emphasizing the point.

      You might speak to them of sickness (like Lirasgirl33) so they won't be so frightened if you weaken from treatments or have very tired days.

      In this modern world, if/when you feel it is time, you could make videos for each or all of your children which they could watch after you are gone.

      In the meanwhile, please buck up. No one but the Creator knows a thing about your lifeline.


      over 8 years ago
    • tombo's Avatar

      i agree with Peroll,,i too was deemed terminal,,3 months at best,,i am still here,a year and a half later,,my cancer is stableized??well its not progressing,,but i still do chemo every 3 weeks,,hang in there,,you can do this,,i realize this kills people,,but just keep fighting,,dont give up,,you can do this,,there are soooo many good people on this sight to help you,,with erything,,from pain to otherways of dealing with this horrble disease,,eat healthy,,,pray,,laugh,,think positive thought,,i swear that helps,,good luck(i hate when people say that!!!but??),,hey,,i will pray for you if you want me too,,,xxoomike

      over 8 years ago
    • Nomadicme's Avatar

      Sometimes I'm too focused on the negative to remember the positive. I worked with this woman who lost her mom to brain cancer when she was 10. She then lost her father as a young adult. I've never met anyone so positive, yet in touch with mortality. She is of the philosophy were all here to die, but not in a morbid negative way. I'm not sure how she was told about her mom, but obviously it was done in a positive life affirming way. Her father must have been part of the answer. So look for people/ideas that can bring that sort of peace and understanding to your kids. I'm sure leaving them in a positive frame of mind will greatly ease your sorrow.

      over 8 years ago
    • alivenwell's Avatar

      Kids can really understand this stuff. Make a photo album for each of them that reflects the happier times in your lives that helps them remember positive memories. You might want to see Randy Pausch's Last Lecture since he had similar issues. He did his last lecture (rather humorous) for his family, especially his kids so that they would see his personality. It's out there on Youtube. Amazon also has his book. Also, on a more serious note, you might want to see if the oncologist can write a signed letter encouraging each kid to get screened when they turn 40 years old.

      over 8 years ago

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