Right from the word go, we had a huge problem. I have the most amazing, beautiful, sweetest little 7 year old in the world. Someone who is going to be completely crushed by this news. How the hell are you supposed to get through that?
Making matters worse, back in February / March when I was ill but undiagnosed, we were quite happily sat watching Bake Off, the stand up to cancer specials when she turned round to me and asked me if I had cancer and was going to die. Of course, I reassured her that wasn’t the case at all and she had nothing to worry about. Now we were going to have to tell her the exact opposite!
We toyed with ideas of where, when and how to tell her. I just wanted her to know everything, not hold back. She would be fine with support and cuddles. But then I don’t think I could bring myself to tell her that way. Then there was when, after school? She was currently working through her SATS did she really need this extra stress?
We did have some help, a support nurse came out to see us the morning of the 22nd. She was to help with breaking the news to Freya and would even work with the school and visit Freya during school hours.
We decided in the end to tell Freya on the evening of her last day in school, the 24th. The following day was teacher training day then she had a week of with us, and the SATS would be finished. The one piece of advice we took from our earlier meeting concerned the question of would I die. It was one Freya was guaranteed to ask, she’s a smart cookie and she would want to know. Beyond that we decided to not waste any time, get her in from school, sit her down and just get it over with.
I decided to take the lead with it, wanting it to come from me. We sat her between us on the sofa. Starting with “Freya, you know that I’ve been ill for sometime now?” to which she immediately started to look worried, we could see the cogs starting to turn. I gently explained that the doctors had done some tests and we had the results, in the interest of being as honest as possible with her we also told her we’d had them a little while but didn’t tell her as she was working on the SATS and we didn’t want her to be more stressed than she was. The thinking was that the more we can be honest, even with things she might not like, the more she would trust us with what we were going to say.
I started to break slightly as I explained the results were that I had cancer. Not being to specific, I said it was in my tummy and my hips. She stared forward almost not sure what to do, then reached round and hugged Kari. I continued to tell her how it means I have quite a bit of pain, and get tired a lot. She turned to hug me, then with her head in hands started to get upset. The cogs turning more, she was starting to think the worst, remembering cancer means death she asked the question.
We took the nurse’s advice here and just said that we didn’t know what was going to happen in the future. Not everyone who has cancer dies from it and we just didn’t know, but that the doctors were doing everything they could to help me. More tests, scans, medicines, everything they can to make sure I’m ok. She asked a few times more the same question, with the same answer she finally seemed to accept it.
After more hugs and plenty of tears from everybody Freya decided she would make me proud, she hopped up of the sofa and grabbed me a cushion. She slid this gently behind my head. “For if you get tired Daddy”. Then she passed me a small teddy she had to hand for me to cuddle.
Freya has always been very considerate and kind, always wanting to help. But to do this now after being told awful news really made me proud of her. She’s an amazing little girl who is going to grow up to be very successful one day.
She’s been much the same since, occasionally stating she remembers I have cancer and cuddling up, and being that little extra helpful. We still have to be careful what we say around her, big ears and a smart brain mean she won’t miss much, but she’s handled it incredibly well.
I treated her today, by way of a thanks for being so kind, to her very own pink minecraft pig xbox controller which she immediately fell in love with and prompted a Freya & Daddy gaming session for that morning.