Today’s question is answered by Jenny, the married mother of a son and a daughter. When she was diagnosed with pseudomyxoma peritonei more than ten years ago, her children were in grammar school. Now she has had no evidence of disease for more than a decade and her children are in college.
“My husband and I wish we would have sought professional counselling for our children, as soon as we learned of my diagnosis.
“We live in a supportive community and have a loving extended family. Initially we tried to keep things normal, which works when you are dealing with play dates, soccer schedules and meals.
“However, our family life still changed as a result of my diagnosis and a shift developed. Don’t get me wrong; we have great kids and we love them to pieces! However, my husband and I think they have been affected by the stress of having a parent under cancer treatment for an extended period of time. One of our children has anger issues, and one has self-confidence concerns. They will be successful adults but I feel that my husband and I should have been more proactive about seeking family counselling early on.
“Looking back, I think we were trying to protect them from the reality of the disease. Initially, when we discussed my diagnosis, we used terms like death, dying, chemo and cancer. We thought we spun this into a very positive approach, but our “method” may have given our children a confusing and unrealistic message about survival instead.
“We pointed out all the people we knew who had survived cancer, and told our kids not to worry because I was going to fight like crazy to beat this disease! We also told them that if it got to the point where I wasn’t going to survive, they would be the first to know.
“Looking back now, I can’t help but wonder if they were always waiting for me or their dad to walk into their rooms and say, “Sorry kids, but Mom’s not going to make it“.
“How much extra stress did we add to their lives by not seeking professional help right away? Counselling was suggested early on, but my husband and I figured it was better to try and handle things “in house” because we felt we knew our kids best and would know when they needed help.
“Knowing what we know now, my husband and I highly suggest parents seek family counselling to help guide everyone towards learning coping skills, for families facing cancer treatment.”