Their dad has cancer.

When I married my husband almost 16 years ago, I didn’t consider that being a wife also meant that I might one day be a widow.  As my husband’s health has declined over the last few years, I’ve become more aware of the possibility that he may be taken from me.  This pandemic has been varying degrees of horrible because for the majority of it, there was no vaccine for my children and for the entirety of it, my husband has been considered high risk.  Now, cancer is the proverbial icing on the cake.  Thankfully, it was caught early and his prognosis is good, but our life from this point forward will consist of check-ups and bloodwork, always trying to see if any cancer is left or if it came back.  If you’re finding out about this here, I’m so sorry if I’ve hurt you by not telling you personally.  Truthfully, I don’t think I could get through saying it over and over again.  Typing it out is only marginally better.  I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be for me, specifically regarding our children.  Each son is processing this news in his own way and both are less ok than they’re saying.  During an appointment, I had to verbally adjust the medical history of our eldest, adding in that his father had cancer.  My kids are used to hearing the word cancer.  My side of the family is somewhat peppered with it.  They know that sometimes cancer kills people and that it sometimes just makes life significantly more challenging.  Either way, they know cancer is hard and having it isn’t a good thing.  Changing that file resulted in a teary exchange, me looking into my son’s frightened eyes, him asking me if he will get sick too.  The banana pudding I ate afterwards didn’t erase the memory of that moment.  Hearing myself say, “his dad has cancer”.  Seeing my son react to my words.  Once I said it aloud and the nurse started typing, there was no going back.  My husband’s cancer came up again differently with our youngest.  He shared with me how excited he was that his school was going mask optional and I reminded him that he and his brother were not allowed to stop wearing their masks.  I asked him to tell me again why we asked this of him.  In a sing-songy, sarcastic voice created by his exhaustion, he chimed, “so I don’t get sick and so I don’t make anyone else sick”.  I gently shared with him that it was even more important now, because his dad’s body was working to keep the cancer from spreading, so it was already too tired to fight against Covid.  It’s not like before, where efforts were for a general group of people.  Now, we’re trying to protect a specific person.  My youngest asked me to stop explaining, so I did.  He hadn’t thought of his dad being sick like that, and it hurt.  Not only did I not think about being a widow, I didn’t think I’d ever be telling our kids about their dad having cancer, at least not when they’re still in elementary school.  I wrote to their teachers this week, explaining the situation, and I’ve cried a lot.  I’m sure more tears will come and I’ll have more days when both my children need a strength from me I’m not sure I have.  I do know that I won’t tell them their dad will beat this.  This is an unfair phrase, this “beating cancer”.  This phrase tells those with a family member that died from cancer that their loved one just didn’t try hard enough, didn’t have the will, didn’t have the want to stay and fight.  It gives those with a family member who did survive cancer the illusion that somehow their family member did it right and those who died didn’t.  I will tell my kids that the doctors are going to try and do the best they can, because I believe this is true.  I will tell them their dad adores them, because this is true.  But I won’t say their dad will beat this.  There are other kids with dads and moms who are gone and they don’t deserve to have their precious memories tarnished with the idea that their parents somehow just didn’t fight for them.

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