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How I Told my Children I had Cancer

How I Told my Children I had Cancer

After I received my diagnosis of invasive lobular carcinoma I was devastated. I spent several days feeling sorry for myself (and this was before COVID). I cried A LOT, didn’t want to get out of bed and definitely could not play with my kids and pretend like everything was fine.

I wasn’t sure how to handle my children. Do I tell them why their mother is sad and crying, or do I try to be strong for them and pretend like nothing is the matter? I knew I was going to need treatment, and John is only 5, but he definitely knows how to read a room and knows when something was wrong. I knew I was going to have to tell him, but I didn't know how.

So I reached out to some friends from college who were going through treatment for breast cancer. We hadn’t spoken since college, but I feel like mutual diagnoses of breast cancer at 35 brings people together.

Turns out, we all had children around the same age, and one of the first things they recommended when they heard I was struggling with telling my children, was to get “Cancer Hates Kisses” by Jessica Reid Sliwerski.


I looked through the book when it arrived and I knew it was perfect. The author is a survivor herself and she writes in a way that explains what’s going to happen to mama, but presents it in a matter-of-fact way that takes the fear away.

Regardless of how many times I read this book, Ben was never going to understand what was happening. He wasn’t even two at the time of my double mastectomy, but John understood and he was scared.

We read the book over and over again, and each time, he had different questions. The book didn’t answer all of them, but it started the hard conversations and allowed him to talk about his fears so I could try to explain what was happening and why, and how it would affect us.

This book didn’t do all the hard work, but it did a lot of the heavy lifting and provided me with the window to explain what was going to happen to our family. I highly recommend this book to anyone newly diagnosed with children. It really made such a huge difference for us.

Whenever John had questions about what was going to happen next, we’d get out the book, read it, and then talk through his fears. I really do think that seeing the pictures, and hearing about what treatment came next helped him understand and put it in perspective.

As we prepare for reconstruction tomorrow, John had some questions about what was going to happen. So we got out the book and read through it again. When we got to the parts about chemotherapy and radiation, I explained that I didn’t need to have that type of treatment (I was very lucky!) and we focused on surgery and recovery and how he could best help me heal.

He understood, turned to his little brother, Ben, and told him that mama would need lots of kisses, because her cancer didn’t like it.

Bless his little heart.


Looking for some great items to prepare for breast surgery? Check out my breast surgery and mastectomy must-haves here


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