Thursday, September 20, 2012

understanding cancer when you are 5

I spoke to my daughter two weeks after my diagnosis.  I guess she knew something was amiss.  I was quieter than usual, crying erratically, and going to the doctor every other day.  She yelled and cried and told me in no uncertain terms that she needed to know what was happening.

My daughter is a super insightful, creative, emotional, and smart little being.  I had already been thinking about what I would say.  I had bought a bunch of "mommy has cancer" books a week after being diagnosed.   All of the books I purchased were wonderful- but I thought I would share two of my favorites.

The images in this book are beautiful and it gave just the right amount of details for my daughter.  This book explains what cancer is and helps give hope.   The book is also translated in Spanish.  This was my daughter's favorite as well.


If you have ever had cancer, you know that you can get pretty aggravated.  Stress is high and all of the things that go wrong get magnified.  Plus you are on a crazy chemotherapy cocktail that does a number on your moods.  Although I try my best, sometimes cancer stands in the way of my being the mommy I want to be.  This book does a nice job of explaining it to my daughter.

I also talked to Caya's new first grade teacher.  Not an easy conversation, "Hi, I am Caya's mom.  I thought you should know that I have just been diagnosed with Cancer.   Caya is extremely sensitive, and I am worried about how this will impact her here at school."  So far, I have been right.  Caya cries and talks about how she is worried about me.  She has also had a hard time focusing

So I bought these as a way of hopefully connecting us when I am in the hospital and she is at school.  I can wear one, she will wear the other.  When we are thinking about each other, we can touch our bracelets and know that everything is okay.

So, I also thought I would share some of the art work that she has been doing to help herself make sense of what has been happening.  I didn't make up any of these directives, they all come from her own little being.   Caya is a born art therapist.

This is the first piece she made for me.  It is a group of happy owls that are setting out to make me happy.  It was folded in half.  Inside the owls have lessons for me.


Inside was four little paper doll owls.  Each one wanted to remind me to do something so I would feel better and be happy.  One reminded me to rest, another reminded me to be patient, a third reminded me to sing and the fourth reminded me to make art.

Caya is most distressed with the fact that I will lose my hair.  She has begun drawing me without hair, I think as a way of trying to accept it and make peace with it.

I have some ideas of things we can do together.  Since Halloween is coming up, I thought it would be fun for her to buy some of her own wigs.  Although our hair is very similar- long and very curly- my hair is brown and red, hers is a very light brown/red with beautiful golden strands through out it.  She was very excited the other day and asked me if maybe I could get a wig that looked like her hair.  Then we could be twins.  Have to say that I love the idea.

And of course, I also find these little love notes for me everywhere.

She is such an amazing little soul.  I will keep checking in with her and make sure that she is okay during this time.  I realize that I am not the only one carrying this diagnosis.  My whole family is.  But together we are strong- and we will survive.

My two year old just gives me lots of hugs and tells me I am his huggy wuggy... which is about one of the most healing things you can get!  He understands that mommy is sick- and I have read him some of the books as well- but I try not to overload him with details.

Both of my children will have birthdays in the next week- and I will not be able to throw the kind of creative birthday party that they have become accustomed to.  But hopefully, we can still have fun and they will know that they are loved.  Another upside to this whole cancer business, is the amount of time I have been able to spend with them lately.  Without worrying about work or teaching, I can just be present with them.  Play.  Teach.  Love.  It has been wonderful.

If you have any other ideas about fun things to do with kids during this time- let me know!  


  1. So impressive what you've done to help Caya cope. Great job, mom! I've been thinking about you knowing your kids' birthdays were coming up. I remember your many posts describing the unique birthdays and was hoping you weren't being too hard on yourself. It sounds like Caya's day was just right. So in awe of you.