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  • 2010 December 12
    From the daily archives: Sunday, December 12, 2010

    My cancer was very hard on my children. The tough part about that was that I was not strong enough to give them everything I wanted to, to help them cope with it.

    Remembering the dream I had about Felicia crying and crying, a bottomless well of grief as it seemed, I really wonder what it is like for a young child. My son, who was nine at the time, went from irascible and boisterous to quiet and well behaved. He acknowledged to me later that he was scared out of his mind. My daughter acted angry all the time, and berated me,

    “Ever since you got cancer all you care about is yourself!” Her little seven year old soul found it easier to believe I was being selfish than to know how sick I was.

    Obviously, I had to take care of myself, or I could not hope to be around to raise them! It was heartbreaking.

    So, how can we support our children when we are coping with cancer treatments and everybody in the neighborhood is caring for them?

    I got my children into therapy, and I am glad that I did. I discovered that my children did not want to burden me with things that bothered them, because they did not want to cause me stress. Their father and I are divorced, and unfortunately, meaning well, he encouraged this. Therapy was a safe place for them.

    A friend of mine sent a book that was also helpful, by two sisters named Abigail and Adrienne Ackerman, called “Our Mom has Cancer”. My daughter read it over and over.

    What I did was hold on to our bedtime ritual no matter what else was going on. I have always been a working mom, so our bedtime was special. Each child had his or her own special songs. My son liked gentle nerve strokes on his back, and “one more shiny minute” (that meant two!). My daughter had different songs, and her own ritual.
    During the long months of treatment, if nothing else I managed the bedtime ceremony. The two times I was too sick to do it were the worst part of the journey.

    Now, three years later, I know they have been affected, but they continue to do well. They still see a therapist every so often. They are accustomed to me taking a rest in the afternoon if I need it. My daughter laughs now about calling me “baldy” during those hard days. Now, at 11, she is very kindhearted. My son is his old irascible self, and he still crawls in for a cuddle in the morning (don’t tell his friends!)

    I think it is important to recognize that maybe we can’t give our children all the support they need while we are engaged in fighting our cancer. There are resources out there. So much of dealing with cancer is saying “yes” to help, whether just for us or for our families.

    The goal is to survive to see our kids grow up. To do that we must take care of ourselves, and that includes accepting help to care for our children, both their little bodies and their precious spirits.

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