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When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, kids cancer books were not very accessible. The internet was not a thing and it wasn’t as easy to access information. I honestly don’t even know how many kids cancer books were even out there to buy.
The good thing was they were really too young to understand what was going on. The day I was diagnosed my oldest son was 2 years old and his baby brother was 3 weeks old. They thought the loss of my hair was completely for their entertainment and they had no idea it was unusual. A year or two later, however, I would have loved to have a book to help me explain to them what was going on with their mom.
As they got older they began to ask questions. I always answered them honestly and succinctly, but they never really got an explanation about breast cancer. We never really talked about what it meant, in a way they could understand as little boys.
“Mom, does the other one come off?”
I remember each of them on separate occasions asked about my mastectomy. I believe that was what made them realize that something “bad” had happened to me. My older one walked in on me changing when he was about 4 years old. I covered up quickly and told him he needed to knock before he came in.
He walked out, shut the door, and promptly knocked. Still covering myself with my shirt, I told him he could come in. He opened the door, looked up at me and asked, “Mom, does the other one come off?” Choking back a laugh, I said, “No, just this one”. He turned and pulled the door shut. He never asked about it again.
My younger one was completely different. He was sitting next to me one night watching T.V. He snuggled in on my affected side. I was in my pajamas and did not have a prosthetic on. He looked up at me and said, “Is that one gone?” and I said “yes”. He said, “Because that one was sick, right?” I said, “Yes, and now it’s gone and I’m all better”. He went back to watching T.V., appearing satisfied with that answer. He was about 4 years old at that point as well.
As time passed, they got even older and were able to tell when I wasn’t myself. I was open about when I had appointments and that I was nervous or ill at ease. I was very open with testing because my anxiety would kick in and I wanted them to understand why I was anxious and cranky. We never formally discussed my disease, it was understood that mom was sick and now she was better. I wish I could have done better to help them understand, I just didn’t know how. I can only hope what I did was enough.
5 Kids Cancer Books to Help Them Understand
Recently, while looking for items for my breast cancer store, I came across some kids cancer books. Storytelling is such a neat way to help kids understand topics that are scary or hard to comprehend. I picked out a few books that I wish I had when I was going through breast cancer and my kids started to ask questions. Relatable questions like why I had so many doctor appointments or why I was more tired than the other moms. The reality of breast cancer is tough for the little ones too, but in a different way.
Here are a few of my favorites:
What is Cancer? A Book for Kids
This book is about cancer in general, not a specific kind of cancer. It covers cancer, chemotherapy, hair loss and hospitalization. It struck me as the type that would work for kids that are a bit older and need a bit more information. If you have Kindle Unlimited you can try it for free, or buy it here.
Mama’s Knight: A Cancer Story of Love
This is by far my favorite book. It is a customizable book with activities that you can do together with your child while telling a story that they can understand and relate to. This is more like a communication tool for little ones. And it’s only $5 on Etsy. Get it here.
This is a great little story for when your hair falls out. Being bald is something kids are going to notice and wonder about. This story tells them why mom’s hair fell out but also why being kind to folks who have this problem is important. Especially if your children whisper questions in the highest decibels possible…like mine used to! Buy it on Amazon here.
Cancer Hates Kisses
This book touches home with me because it is written by a cancer survivor who was diagnosed when her baby was an infant (like me!). Plus, I love my children’s kisses. Buy it here.
The Goodbye Cancer Garden
This book reminded me of something my children and I did for my parents. My parents had cancer at the same time and we used to mark the time passed by bringing them flowers for the garden. We tried to pick flowers that would work in the garden, but also with a theme. One week we got “knockout roses” for breast cancer. This book uses gardening to help children understand time frames. “Mom will be better by pumpkin time…” You can purchase it on Amazon.
All of these books can be found on my website in the breast cancer store here. My personal advice to young moms would be to always be honest, but don’t offer more than they ask for. Let your children lead the discussions to wherever they want it to go. It’s hard to know what concerns them most, let them tell you. Cherish every single moment with your children. I still do, it’s my favorite pastime and they are now 24 and 26!
Still unsure how to approach the subject of breast cancer with your children? This fact sheet from Susan Komen is short and easy to understand.