Flattening out the fear
At the age of four, my daughter pushed her head into my neck and said:
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"Mom, I'm worried...

We’d been talking about my ill mother, and all the things we were facing up to as she began the slow march towards her demise. I’d been forced to be somewhat honest with my curly-haired child because, by then, we knew: Granny wasn’t going to get better. That conversation shaped our life strategy from then on, whereby we’d divide the workload of life like this: I’d do the worrying; she’d do the growing. Every time something uncomfortable comes along, we repeat this to each other.

A Life Strategy

That sounds almost too easy, I realise, but it’s a strategy that’s worked as we’ve talked through big problems, tackled smaller ones and faced some scary moments. It became a mantra for her and I again when, in September, I was told I’d need surgery to ascertain whether or not the tumour on my right breast was cancerous or not. 

Determined Focus

It’s been two weeks since that surgery and I’m happy to say my diagnosis was clear. My family history, though, reads like a love letter from Cancer to life and, unfortunately, many of my family members’ lives have been claimed by that courtship. That’s why I’m careful and concerned, pedantic and determined to ensure that I am always making that appointment and having uncomfortable tests, at least once a year. 

Telling The Truth (Even When It’s Hard)

While she may do the growing and I do the worrying, there’s another thing I commit to – honesty. That’s why, when those concerned faces talked to me over a monitor and the light of an ultrasound image reflected off their eyes, I knew I’d have to be blunt, but cautiously positive with my daughter. She’s old enough to understand the intricacies, but not old enough (I feel) to have to face the fact of my mortality. Heck, I’m not ready to, either. 

Instead of bluffing past the intricacies, I showed her my scan images, explained what they’d be doing in theatre and how I was feeling too. At that time, I wasn’t scared – that fear only set in about an hour before I went under the knife and, hey, nobody I knew was around to see it. 

While all things are well with me on the health front, I know that there’s got to be something to learn in this for her too. Her lineage leaves her with the family history I pass on. So, through my determination to get checked, be tested and do whatever I can to ensure I am okay, I am teaching her to do the same too. If I can sew into that family tapestry a sense of self-awareness, of cautious observation and of keen determination, I’ll be doing her future self a favour. No matter what comes my way in the future, I know I’ve enabled her to carry on growing, and I’ll just handle the worrying. 

How do you manage health scares with your children? Share your thoughts, opinion and experiences by emailing chatback@parent24.com and we may publish your story.

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