Figuring out how to minimize the impact of this diagnosis on my kids has been my second biggest concern behind treatment. The following information is only from my experience with this so far. Every family is different, but this might be helpful for anyone going through cancer or a serious illness with small children. There is an angel who walks the earth in the form of a nurse at the UVA cancer center who gave me a lot of these ideas. Which is my first tip- ask good oncology nurses to give you advice on how to manage this with kids, they have seen your situation before.
Preparing Aden for double mastectomy
Before my surgery, I talked to my 3 year old a lot about what was going to happen beforehand. He is a very anxious kid and needs to be in the know before the slightest of routine changes- so this one required a lot of prep work. The first thing I did was lay down some context that he could understand prior to talking to him. We did a date, just he and I, to see the kids cartoon movie “Wonderpark.” The mom in this movie gets sick and has to leave her child for a while. The whole movie is about processing the sadness of the child. This was really tough emotionally for me to watch with him at the time, but it really gave him a lot of context and words to talk to him about what was happening. I would also highly recommend the movie, “My neighbor Totoro” for this too.
After laying some context, I used the images and themes from the movie to talk to him at least daily for several weeks about the upcoming surgery, being away at the hospital, that I would have boo-boos and be sick for a while and grandpa coming to help. By the time grandpa showed up 2 days before surgery, Aden was prepared and explaining to grandpa everything that was going to happen. He felt some control. The morning of surgery, my husband and I dropped Aden and Connor off at daycare. Drop off when smoothly, Aden knew the plan and his anxiety was at a minimum- which was a gift to me. Turns out that kids are scared and anxious for the same reasons we are. It is the fear of the unknown and lack of control that scares them. It was the same lack of control and the unknown driving the waves of anxiety washing over my body in the weeks prior to surgery. Preparing Aden with the context of a kids movie and then talking to him regularly about the future dampened the anxiety for both of us.