How to Tell Your Kids You Have Mesothelioma Cancer Part I: The Talk

September 24, 2014

It’s one of the hardest parts of having mesothelioma and it isn’t the prognosis or the symptoms or the serious, serious pain… it’s the talking. To be specific, it’s the talking to your kids. It’s the talking to your kids to tell them you have cancer. The talking to your kids to tell them that you are very sick, that you have mesothelioma. It’s the talking to your kids to tell them that you are dying.

It’s one of the hardest parts of having mesothelioma, and it’s about time, though it’s hard, to bring it to light and talk about it together. Because we need to help other families going through the same thing, to share our stories and to learn what works, not just in treatment, preparation and in protecting our families for the future, but also in our children, and helping them to cope with the hardest words they will ever have to hear.

This is hard for us to talk about, and we imagine it must be hard for you to read, but we hope that this can help some parents out there suffering from mesothelioma today.

Because you are not alone, and, because, while it’s one of the hardest parts of having mesothelioma, you have to face it eventually. You have to tell your children the truth about what is happening, because our children, while we try to protect them, they can see it in our eyes. They know when we are not feeling well and, eventually, it’s going to be time to tell them why.

Here are the two top things that help some of the mesothelioma patients we represent with The Talk.

“The Talk” Tip #1:

Address the tears. Many parents tell their children “it’s okay to cry” and so, if the parent feels like crying, they try to lead by example by showing their children that they can cry too. If this feels right for you, then do it. But what we’ve heard from many families is that having mesothelioma means addressing crying in a different way.

As in: Cry alone, cry with your spouse or loved one, cry with your elderly parent or with your friend or neighbor… cry until you can’t cry anymore, until you have no more tears. And then you can tell you children. And you can be there for them when they cry, but never show them a tear.

This no-crying-in-front-of-the-kids works for some families because of the sheer out-of-control nature of mesothelioma, the fact that suddenly the foundation has been taken out from under the family and there are so many chaotic factors going on. You may feel like crying all of the time but crying in front of your children may just be one too many unstable conditions for them to bear. Particularly if your children are very young, it may help for your children to see that even though having mesothelioma is very difficult, you are staying strong and in control. Not crying in front of your children when you tell them you have mesothelioma may also show them the kind of bravery they’ll need to help face what comes.

However, as your time with mesothelioma progresses, the no-crying-in-front-of-the-kids rule might change. You might feel as if you want to have everyone in the family on the same page, or to show your children just how sad you are that you might not always be there for them. That’s okay, too, and if you want to cry in front of your kids… do.

“The Talk” Tip #2:

This doesnt change a thing. Having mesothelioma means you don’t have the same time you always took for granted — you might not be able to see your children graduate from school, you might not get to help them learn to drive or navigate their young adult life. But your guidance as a parent and your wishes for your children never change.

Let your child know that you still love them and want the same from them as you always have. That means, if your child loves soccer and always had an early Saturday morning soccer match, try to keep that in the schedule. Maybe the coach can work it out so your child can play every other game or misses some of the warmups… but your children need to know that the life they lived pre-mesothelioma doesn’t have to go away completely with mesothelioma. And whatever you and your child used to do together pre-mesothelioma… try to continue it, either by physically doing it while you can or talking about the memories or writing them down.

And if your child already has dreams of their own, support them by saying you will be there to support them every step of the way, that, even if you won’t be there physically, you won’t miss it “spiritually.”

Reminding your children that you love and support them no matter what is a helpful way to aid them right when you tell them the hard news, and helps to bring the focus right where it belongs: to your family and enjoying the time you have together.

Did these two tips help you? Or can you think of something else to say during The Talk that might help even more? Let us know on our Facebook page here or right a comment below. We’d love to hear what worked for you!