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Grandma has cancer

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

And lives with us.  It's my mom.  It's breast cancer.  Diagnosis given today, next step unknown.  Surgery was mentioned.  She got the news in a phone call from her doctor.  (who knows my mom no longer drives, but I still think that's a horrible way to handle it personally)  She has lived with us for the last 3.5 years, my younger 2 children's entire lifetimes, my daughter has NO memories of a life before this.  My 7 year old remembers a little bit of life before all of us living together, but not much, he was barely 4.  She also took care of him the first 2 years of his life while I worked, and we saw Grandpa (passed away 2008) and Grandma almost daily before she lived here.

So yeah, they're very close.


Tonight I did say to them that Grandma is going to have some more appointments at the doctor that Mommy will have to drive for, that I'll be a little more busy because of that, but that I will still make some time to do fun things with them.  (came up as we were driving somewhere fun)


The kids in question are 7, 5, 3, and 1.


WHAT do I tell them?  It's still sinking in to me, I haven't posted anywhere else and have told very few people and only out of their hearing.  I'm semi-anonymous here at least, unlike my fb page.  I'm just not ready to deal with a FB announcement. 


Anyone else dealt with anything like this?

post #2 of 8
Hugs mama. I wish I had advice.
post #3 of 8

My dd was a bit older than your kids when my mom was diagnosed with bladder cancer. We did not live with her at the time. I don't think I told dd until after treatment was decided upon. I told her that her grandma was sick and explained what cancer was and a bit about treatments. I think I said it was serious but emphasized that it was treatable and not contagious. We talked about noticeable changes and being considerate. Unfortunately my mom did not get better after going through treatments so we eventually had to talk about Grandma dying with dd.


Since your kids are pretty young you might not want to tell them as much. I would try to stay positive and maybe focus on daily changes they might notice. You might explain that she is the same person who loves them but she may not feel like doing everything she used to do or the physical changes as a result of treatments.






post #4 of 8

mama i am very sorry.


yes i have gone through something similar with dd was 4. 


because of the variety of ages i dont think you can have one statement that covers all. 


first thing is i would take time and be 'home' with my own emotions. give yourself some time. you kids dont have to know right away. once you feel settled (if there is such a thing) then talk to your kids with the idea that gma is ill, as you have already said and also that gma will be feeling weak. you have to bring in the gma looking sick.


for dd and me (i am not even sure i said anything to her except gpa and gma were ill) moved in with them and lived with them for a year till they passed away. they were in hospice which is different than your case. 


for me it wasnt so much about 'saying' as much as doing. dd helped take care of her gparents. she learnt that sometimes she had to be quiet because they could not handle her energy. those times her father or friends took dd more. 


it helped dd IMMENSELY to be there and help take care of them. even to teh point of holding their hand as they passed, and then reading to them while we made phone calls.


the key for us was keeping dd involved with the caring of gparents and allowing dd to do what she wanted to do even though we werent sure ourselves. it was a v. sweet time for gma and gdd. dd was shocked that gma didnt have a doll and she gave her raggedy ann to gma who used it to prop her nebulizer. dont keep your children away you know except when gma needs it. your 3, 5 and 7 year old will be able to help you take care of gma in their own way. if they want to help, let them. 


answer their questions as honestly as you can expressing even your lack of knowledge. 


i remember dd went through a whole bunch of emotional upheavals and i had to remember to be patient with her. 


the MOST important part is how YOU are with YOUR emotions and being able to be honest about them to your kids. that part was hard for me as my xinlaws were very independent people. but i was honest with my dd about what i felt if she asked me. if i felt overwhelmed and frustrated i warned her, if i felt like crying i didnt hide my tears from her. i think her seeing my myriad of emotions make her feel ok to have her own myriad of emotions too. 

post #5 of 8

hug2.gifRight now, I think you've told them enough.


When you know more information and you've processed it more, then you can figure out the details of what to tell them when.

post #6 of 8

My DD is 4. Grandpa (My Dad) was diagnosed with skin cancer years ago. He has little spots burned off of him on a regular basis. When DD asks him about it he says that they're his owies. DD then shows him her latest owies, or the "spot" on her hand that's a raised freckle. It's a cute little bonding moment with them where they're basically comparing "war wounds."


When Grandpa (Still my Dad) got diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier last year he sat me down and told me that he didn't want to tell DD that he was sick, but he was going to try the surgery before the chemo, and that would put him in the hospital for a little while. Then after that, he was going to have a bit of healing time where he would be unable to pick her up. We don't live with Grandpa, but we see him and Grandma a lot -- at least weekly. He was almost in tears asking how he could explain the time away, and being unable to play with her the way they usually do without "scaring her" with the word Cancer. So, I told him that we'd work it out. If he didn't want her to know the exact diagnosis, then we'd just tell her what she needed to know to understand the situation, and if she asked more questions it would be up to him to figure out how to answer. So, when it came down to it, Grandpa was "at the doctors" when I went to visit him (at the hospital) and DD needed to stay home with DH while I went to see him. DD just said "Ok" and asked when SHE was going to get to go see Grandpa, so I told her that we'd go for a long visit on X-date (a day soon after his discharge.) When we went over, she didn't even notice that Grandpa was in pj pants, and when she asked him to pick her up he just said that he couldn't right now, but she could come and sit on his lap and he would read her a story. Grandpa healed up over the course of a month or a month and a half. He can now pick her up again, but now they also have more quiet time together where they sit and read or tell stories about their day. I haven't heard the results of the surgery, or about what if any follow up treatment he's planning. It's been nearly 4 months since then.


I personally don't think the word "Cancer" would have scared DD. I would have explained what was going on just as I would anything else. But, this was Grandpa's decision. It's his disease and he has the right to say who he wants to know and who he doesn't want to know, and if he tells to do it in a way that makes HIM comfortable. I completely respect him for coming to me, and asking me about it, because I am the parent of DD. However, what that really made me do was listen and respect his wishes regarding everything.


With all of that, have you talked to Grandma? Maybe she has some opinions on what to tell the kids.

post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 

You're right.  I haven't.  I did go with her to the surgeon's, and other than speaking up when she started to answer something differently from what we'd discussed at home, I allowed her to speak for herself without commenting at all.  It's not my diagnosis or my body going through the treatment, and I don't know how the decisions I'll make in my 70's will be different than what I'd make right now.  (I do think the decisions she's made are fine.  But even if I disagreed, it's not my body, it's not my diagnosis, and it's not my life.)  There's also a study that her doctor is doing, and we're both in the process of reading up on it.  What I did was ask her if she'd read the thing I'd read yet and voiced my question about all the tests required as part of the study--I didn't go into why or anything, I'm leaving it to her to ask the doctor about it and make her final decision based on what the doctor tells her.  I would've said more if she'd asked about it.  (I'm concerned about unnecessary exposure to radiation.  Those tests are good when the benefits--finding and treating something--outweigh the risks.)

post #8 of 8

Cancer sucks! I'm sorry Mama. Sending supportive vibes to you, your mom, and whole family.


My mom lives with us, she has leukemia which is currently in remission. So we are holding steady there. However DD's closet playmate and the daughter of our best friends died of brain cancer when both girls were 4. Before that DD was around when my grandmother who also lived with us, passed away. DD was there for the whole death vigil. Even expressing feelings like she wished great grammy would go ahead and die (these were feelings everyone had during the vigil but only a small child would speak with such forthrightness). Anyway if serious illness and death and grief come into your life I think being upfront and honest about it is helpful. It doesn't take away the fear or the pain, but nothing can do that. At least being honest about what is happening (in an age appropriate way) shows respect for the child and consideration for the relationship they have with their loved one. Giving them tools to process what they are feeling, a forum to discuss what is happening a place where you and even your mom share your feelings (in a way that the kids can handle) is something you can do. It won't fix anything but hopefully it will help you all navigate the rough stuff and enjoy the good stuff.


It sounds like right now treatment and the effects of treatment may be the main thing your kids need to know about. With DD and her best friend a straight up factual answer or explanation, kind of like a news update was all that was needed. For example we might have said "DD, your friend is coming over to play, she has a port in her arm right now for medicine so we need to be gentle with her arm." So for now maybe talk about what kind of treatment your mom will have and how that will affect her. Be honest. Give the kids the facts. If you can share some of how you are feeling without totally falling apart, share that.


This is really hard stuff. But in the midst of it you can still have fun and enjoy your mom and your kids can too.

sending love and hope to you all.

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