The awkwardness of cancer -Part 1 language

The awkwardness of cancer -Part 1 language

So, cancer came to spend some time with us.  There are many awkward things about cancer.  The language, its appearance, its deadly nature.  Cancer, that thing, that word invokes such emotion, fear and terror.  Should we welcome it with open arms, talk openly and honestly and expose our children to the harsh reality that is cancer?  Or should we censor the content and language of cancer and give our children half-truths to protect them?

We decided that we could not live in fear of Felix’s cancer.  We needed a positive relationship with this thing – it was going to be with us for three years and the long-term effects for ever.  It was up to us to dispel the sheer terror that often ran hand in hand with the word cancer for the sake of our children.  We felt that the way to do this was to be honest and open with them and not to be scared of the language that we would use.  This was no place for half-truths; in our experience, half-truths ultimately led to hurt and a sense of betrayal. There were going to be tough times ahead and we needed the children to feel safe and secure; we needed them to trust us.

And so we used the word cancer openly and explained the language of cancer: portacath, lumbar puncture, blood counts, chemotherapy.  We didn’t give cancer and it’s language exclusivity to rule our world but we when we spoke there was honesty in our explanations and truth in our responses.  This language is now part of our everyday lives.  Felix will say that he has cancer although he prefers its full name, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, as it includes ‘blast’ which for a 10-year-old boy is epic.  His little brother talks about chemotherapy as a medicine, which it is, and his older sister is keen to examine blood counts and discuss cell types and their current dysfunction.

There is no definitive way to cope and manage childhood cancer in the home but the language which is used can be important to the family.  We want to take away the fear and trepidation when talking about cancer.  We want to be able to talk freely about something which is now part of our lives and will be forever.  We want people to talk to us, without feeling awkward, about the cancer that has invaded our lives.

Understanding cancer terminology

  • Susan Clarke
    Posted at 20:10h, 25 April Reply

    I think that is a very wise decision indeed. Sometimes situations like this in a family help create future doctors or researchers.
    We’ve always believed in the truth. Shared gently and questions answered to our best knowledge.
    You are such a wonderful family.
    You are helping a lot of people with these blogs.
    *hugs* ? from Canada.
    We tend to hug alot over here! !

    • The Diary of Mrs Brown
      Posted at 20:12h, 25 April Reply

      Thank you so much Susan. I hope I’m helping people in one way or another – it’s certainly helping me process it all. Best wishes sent back with a polite British handshake ???

  • Marie-Celine
    Posted at 20:10h, 25 April Reply

    I refuse to give cancer a capital “C” most of the time. I don’t think it deserves it. The other thing I noticed is when you see photographs of what some cancer cells look like under a microscope they are actually quite pretty. And I think how can something so pretty be so evil?

    • The Diary of Mrs Brown
      Posted at 20:13h, 25 April Reply

      That’s so interesting – never seen the actual cells yet. I’ll get googling! X

      • Marie-Celine
        Posted at 20:18h, 25 April Reply

        I saw something on the news recently – probably just an artists impression but it was pretty! Were you told by the Oncologist not to google anything?

        • The Diary of Mrs Brown
          Posted at 20:20h, 25 April Reply

          Yes we were! I think images of cells are ok and I still Google anyway – shhhh! What is you current relationship with cancer? X

          • Marie-Celine
            Posted at 20:27h, 25 April

            My son (now 16) is a survivor x2. He’s had two different types of cancer; Rhabdomyosarcoma in 2006 and Osteosarcoma in 2014 resulting in life changing surgery to his head & neck in 2015. He is currently cancer free ?????

          • The Diary of Mrs Brown
            Posted at 20:28h, 25 April

            Boy, a tough ride for you all xxx

          • Marie-Celine
            Posted at 20:37h, 25 April

            Yes but he’s awesome like your Felix and has an amazing outlook so we made it through the storm and he said he’d do it again if he had to! I’d rather he didn’t have to …

          • The Diary of Mrs Brown
            Posted at 21:08h, 25 April

            What a great young man! X

  • John Hull
    Posted at 23:13h, 25 April Reply

    I agree with all you say Mrs Brown, spread the word and make people aware what to look for.

  • flamesparrow
    Posted at 07:01h, 26 April Reply

    Cancer is like Voldemort. Taking away the fear of the word (and associated ones) may not change the thing itself, but it gives us so much more power to deal with it.

  • Mo
    Posted at 08:09h, 27 April Reply

    Total openness and honesty are so essential to children because they are very sensitive to any subtle change in their home no matter how well and clever you think you are being at concealing things from them. It then becomes a big scarey cupboard in their lives of the Unknown firing their imagination and anxiety and insecurity goes deep and comes out in all sorts of difficult ways. Far better to keep those doors open with the light of truth and then each child can process it in their own way as yours are doing in such a healthy way with the safety net of great love and security that you both give them. What a very tough but invaluable learning this is because they will become such beautiful rounded and amazing people like their Mum and Dad whose example is touching so many other lives through your wonderful blogs. Thank you Kerry ? Xxx

    • The Diary of Mrs Brown
      Posted at 08:11h, 27 April Reply

      Thank you Mo xxx

      • Mo
        Posted at 09:05h, 27 April Reply

        I forgot to say Kerry, I know Felix may have set backs as in his confidence and missing his schooling but you know my Grandson, who had the brain tumour at 2 years old, and yes, he did miss out on certain areas and has been very sensitive but he has had such a wonderful support of love that he’s come through it a lovely kind, caring and beautiful soul.
        Felix’s experience will give him real understanding and empathy for people going thru a similar challenge which can only be learnt through personal experience and, like Felix’s favourite footballer (sorry, can’t remember his name) who had leukaemia he will use all of what he learns from now to help others and will be such a blessing. Not easy I know to see that right now but every day he is already touching and inspiring so many people and I’m sure is really pleased with being able to take that positive out of his own challenge, he’s a little star ?xxx

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