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Fat Mum Slim /

As soon as I got the text from Hubby I hot-footed it to the hospital. It seems that whenever you’re in a rush, every car seems to want to sit 20 kilometres under the speed limit while your heart races a million miles an hour, and all the sad songs seem to play on the radio. Am I right? I stopped at the hospital reception and asked them to let me through to bed seven. “What’s the name?” the nurse asked. I spelled it out for him, and said that he could just let me straight through and Hubby would be waiting for me. He asked me to spell it again, and then one more time and promised me that bed seven wasn’t the people I was looking for.

It suddenly dawned on me that I was at the wrong hospital, so I hot-footed it again to the right hospital… again while all the sad songs played on the radio and everyone drove as if it was Sunday.

Walking in to the hospital, I knew nothing would be the same again. It was that C-word. Cancer. That disgusting disease which seems to get the good ones, the people it shouldn’t. Stupid disease. Hubby’s poor mum has it, and it’s advanced and incurable. This past week has felt like a lifetime. I’ve been trying to hold my poor heartbroken Hubby up, and trying to fake it and be upbeat for my girls, so they don’t cotton on to the reality… trying to be the glue that keeps it altogether, while simultaneously feeling like I was falling apart.

The next day I headed to the shops to grab bits and pieces for my mother-in-law; clothes, a radio, medical stuff. At the checkout the lady asked how I was. “Great thanks,” I faked it. She busied herself and asked me again, absentmindedly. “Good,” I replied unconvincingly. It always amazes me, in times of heartache and stress, that the world goes on for everyone else. People still shop, smile, and get on with life, while other worlds feel like they’ve stopped in time.

This past week, I’ve had to be the person that people leaned on… but I also leaned on too. My little sister is the best person in a crisis. Honestly, I’ve never met anyone that shows up like she does. I call her, and somehow everything gets done. I don’t even ask for the things to get done, but her brain works that way. She swoops in, collects the kids, does the things and makes sure I don’t have to think about a thing, so I can think about the other things. My mum is very similar too. On that Monday when I got that text, they took care of everything. I came home to sleepy girls, freshly bathed in their PJs, loved and comforted without a clue of the reality going on behind the scenes.

My mother-in-law is very private, so I don’t want to share too much here… and we don’t get the final results until Monday… but I wanted to ask your advice. I’m worried about my girls. Lacey still cries about her PopPop who she lost six years ago. Tears are a regular thing and her heart is still broken. Lulu is pure and whole and hasn’t experienced heartache. I want to keep them as they are, but I know they will go through this and I have to stop resisting it. How do I carry them through this experience gently, in the best way possible? I’ve gone to the school and asked how they can help me support Lacey {she’s a naturally anxious child, and picks up on other people’s energy and anxiety}. I know kids are amazingly resilient too. They will always surprise us.

Is there a best way to do this? My plan is to answer their questions without too much information and give them lots of love and family time. We had a night planned away in Sydney for a long time, which we’re doing right now, which I think is a great distraction {especially for Hubby who hasn’t been coping at all}. Any advice? I’d love to know your experiences, if you have any. x

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  • Carolann Killick

    First of all im so sorry xxx cancer sux!! We lost our father/in-law/grandpa 4yrs ago to mesothelioma. Our youngest was 7 at the time. When it came time for pallitive care (5wks) we made cards/pictures and visited couple days a week (me daily) and i told her that he was sick and soon he would go to live in heaven with a,b,c ect….. we were honest to a extent she could handle. When he started looking “not like grandpa” we stopped taking her but the pictures for him continued. She cried the day he passed, cried at the funeral and few times since but all in all handled it better than the older grandkids. Let her start to grieve before the horrid time comes (hopefully years away) and some special memories will be made along the journey ? sending cuddles and love to you all

  • Melissa Kinnear

    My children were 3, 10 and 13 when their father died 4 years ago, however it was sudden. My advice is that you talk about how everyone is going to be sad and if you are crying, as an adult, you can still look after them and it is ok to all cry together. I found my 3 year old acted things out a lot. For example he would knock at the door and say I am the police your dad is dead. So you might find LuLu acting things out with dolls? I also think it’s not a problem for kids to still be grieving, or anyone, years and years later as long as they are also living and having fun times. We make sure we always talk about my husband and I made the kids books of photos of just them with their Dad to keep in their rooms so they could grieve in private sometimes too. We also have a little symbol rocks in a bowl and if someone takes their rock out of the bowl it means they are struggling a bit and may need a bit of extra care but they might not want to talk or ask because it is a bit overwhelming. It is so sad that kids have to go through this, I am so sorry.

    • Denise Blust Vermillion

      I love the idea of the rocks. Sometimes kids can’t process what they’re feeling, just that they’re feeling it and don’t know what to do. I am a widow too, although my children were older. I’m part of an amazing group, many with young children. Would you mind if I passed on this idea?

      • Melissa Kinnear

        Please do if it helps someone that would be wonderful.

  • Becky Lofdahl

    I am in the same boat at the moment. I am in Perth and it’s a waiting game. I’m picking up the pieces at my in-laws home.. I’m dreading the feeling of being in a house where my amazing MIL isn’t.. Everywhere I look I see her beautiful touches around her house and its as if she has just gone to the store and will be back again. I dust, I clean, I take photos of everything so I place it back where it was.. I take photos of her lovely well cared for garden where she spends most of her time.. I take the photos for my hubby and my FIL because I know they will never be cared for as much as she did. I can smell her perfume and I see clothes still sat on the floor in their bedroom.. Knowing she wouldn’t like that but I dare not touch them out of respect. 6 weeks ago we first heard the news.. It was so hard to live in another state pretending that life is ok and it’s good.. Which on reality it isn’t at the moment. We flew to Perth as soon as we could only to spend one day with her before they took her to hospital. Now we visit her in there.. A Tony fragile shell that contains this fierce strong independent soul. I feel for you Chantelle and I pray that you have the strength to get through it.. It is a moment at a time. Massive hugs xx

  • Ellie Scarf

    So sorry to hear about what you and your family are going through. I find books are my go to to open the conversation up in a natural and relatable way for kids. Megan from Children’s Books Daily has some wonderful recommendations from a very personal reference point.

    Lots of love.

  • I’m so very sorry to read this Channy. Sending massive love and light to you and your family. It’s 11 years ago today since we lost my husband’s mum to Ovarian Cancer. She had been diagnosed for just over 12 months. Her final weeks were so difficult but we knew we had to be as upfront as we could be with my eldest who were 10 and 11 at the time. Flynn was only 1 so has no memory of the time or sadly his grandmother. Go with what feels right for you and your girls. X

  • I am so sorry, sending you love and strength.

    We’ve just been through something a little similar. My husbands pop passed from cancer. We are a pretty close family and my kids adored him, it was hard.

    I was advised to talk to the kids and let them know that PopPop was very sick. We took them to visit him but didn’t force them to go in and talk to him. The kids actually found going in and talking to him a really good thing as they were able to understand PopPop wasn’t feeling well.

    The most important thing we did was to ask the kids “do you have any questions?”. We didn’t tell them much- just that he was quite sick, and we let them ask anything they wanted- and we answered honestly but with little detail as possible.

    The boys are quite pragmatic so they coped well, we still talk about it and we say ‘hello’ to PopPop everytime we drive past his grave (you can see it from the road and we pass it weekly). It’s a hard process, if you think Lacey needs it, I’d encourage her to talk to a councillor- or maybe do it as a family.

    Again, sending so much love to you all.

    • Denise Blust Vermillion

      I think letting the kids ask you questions is a great way to go. Sometimes we’re thinking of the big picture, and they are just wondering who’s going to take them to a birthday party on Saturday. <3

  • So sorry to hear, Chantelle. I don’t have any advice, just some big hugs for you and the family. Go gently xx

  • Leanne H

    I was diagnosed with breast cancer 3 years ago when my girls were 6 and 10. Granted, older, and I had a good prognosis. But I was always honest with them, in terms that they could understand.
    My now 10 year old actually had her hand on my breastless chest this morning, joking with me because I said I was moisturising my boobs after my shower. “Ha ha Mum, you don’t have any boobs!”
    This same kid practically supported me through the loss from leukemia of a 6yr old student that I had been helping to raise awareness and funds for. She came to his coffin and popped in a letter she had written for him.
    Not a qualm at seeing him. She did cry, she did question what would happen to him. She visited with the school Chappy a few times too.
    At his funeral 7 of his cousins, school friends and his 5yr old sister released doves. It was really beautiful and kind of calming.
    Not sure if any of this helps, also the staff at palliative care will have some great advise and support for you.
    I’m so sorry for your family and husband and mum-in-law. Cancer isn’t fair. xx

  • Tammy Watson

    Oh my god. My heart stopped a beat reading this. I can’t believe it, but I have just experienced exactly the same scenario over the past 3 years. My husbands mother was diagnosed with Brain Tumors and Lung Cancer very unexpectantly and it shook us to our core. She was the most healthy, vibrant, motivated older person I knew! And she was tough!!! Like old school tough. She could do anything. It was a huge shock to our family and at the time my girls were 5 and 4. She was told it was untreatable, incurable and only had about 3 months to live. It turned our world upside down. As she was my husbands Mother and my girls Grandmother I felt I had to hold everyone up. The next day we decided to make the most of the time. I got the video camera out as much as possible (she HATED cameras of any sort and had alway fought me about taking her photo), I had the camera taking photos all the time, I tried to document the girls and hubby with her as much as possible.I even set up my tripod and took the one and only family photo we have with every one of us in it. We went for picnics, she came to every school activity, they took the girls everywhere they went, we saw them as much as possible. We thought we only had 3 months. Then radiation and chemo started and everything slowed down. Over the next 2 and a half years she continued treatment (supposedly to gain more time) but she began a downward spiral that was long, tormenting, humiliating, hard, sad and excrutiating for her and for us to be helpless and watch. The last 6 months were horrible. She was bed ridden, completely unable to function in her body and just torturous. But we all kept by her side and I talked the girls through every day and every visit. My oldest daughter took the whole experience very hard and I saw her personality change when her Grandmother went into permanent care. In March this year, 2 and a half years since diagnosis she passed away peacefully in her bed in her home and we were there with her. My girls were now 8 and 7. I took the girls there to see her that day (we were told she was passing) to say goodbye and she seemed asleep. Then my mother took them home and we stayed by her side until she passed that night. It was so hard. I still don’t know if I made the right decision to take them to say goodbye….it was a terrible vision. But I think they needed the resolution, the end, the chance to say goodbye (I know I missed that when my gran passed away when I was younger). I have since had major problems with my eldest daughter with anxiety and separation anxiety from me which until this time, she has never displayed before. She was very close to her Gran and is a very emotional child anyway. My younger daughter has taken it much better. Little moments and little things that trigger memories of her will make us all cry still. I talk as much as I can with the girls and make it the most beautiful experience I can. Theres lots of stories about Gran shooting the rainbows down to us to remind us she’s there, of sunny days when she’s in heaven doing her gardening and of how she lives in their heart and is always with them. I also made a little photo book each to keep of all the photos since they were born with her. So thats our story and I know what your going through. Let me know if there’s anything I can help you more with. Tam xxx

  • Janet Fuller

    We lost my mum and nanna to renal cancer 3 years ago (2 weeks and 10 minutes apart), they didn’t want the kids to know they were sick. In my mums last 8 days I decided I couldn’t not tell him any longer, mum was not herself and we knew but didn’t want to believe the way it was headed. I picked him up from school and We sat on my bed, we cried, we cuddled we talked, and I let him choose dinner and we watched movies. I decided that night he had the rest of his life for homework we needed to be there for each other. I hope this helps. Take care sending you all much love

  • I don’t have any advice but sending all of my love x

  • Tamara

    So very sorry for your family. Children are incredibly perceptive, and in my experience, anxious ones are more so. They already know something is wrong, so likely it is either too scary to ask or they have the sense that they ought not to.

    Tell them now and tell them the truth, but keep it simple. Tell them that grandma is in the hospital because she’s very sick. Doctors are doing everything they can to make her feel better, but sometimes when a person is very, very sick, they can’t always make them all the way better.

    You don’t mention what your religious beliefs are. It is easier if you do have faith. When my children were very young, I told them that God makes you better 100% of the time. However, one of God’s choices for making you well is to have you come live with Him, which is sad for those of us who stay here but means that one day we will see them again. That brought my children great comfort in spite of the pain.

    If you’re not a believer, you still don’t get the luxury of sparing children the harsh realities of life, so you’re helping them much more if you prepare them than you are if you’re protecting them.

    What will scare them most is that if it can happen to grandparents, then it could happen to parents too. So be prepared with lots of reassurance that you and your husband are healthy and take good care of yourselves and that these things almost always happen to older people (because even if your MIL is rather young, she will seem “old” to them). Answer all their questions, don’t sugarcoat and be _honest_. But answer just the questions they ask. Don’t provide lots of details. “Are they giving her lots of medicine?”

    “Yes, the best they have.” (No mention of tubes and veins and IVs)

    “Why isn’t it making her better? Medicine makes us better.”

    “We are still learning about medicine. Sometimes medicine helps you feel a little better but it doesn’t take all the sickness away.” (No mention of what they’re trying or that the medicine might actually make her feel worse.)

    “Why can’t we go see her?”

    “Because the hospital does not allow children into that ward. They have very strict rules about quiet and even though I know you would be very quiet, many children aren’t so the hospital won’t bend that rule.” (Here is the one place is it is ok to fudge the truth because they would not understand that she’s too sick to see them, may not be up for seeing them, probably doesn’t look like herself at all, and because of all the medical equipment would probably frighten them. So make it the hospital’s rule, not your decision)

    And be at peace as much as you are able. They will take their cues from you first. If you seem scared and unsure and beside yourselves, then death is scary and uncertain but if you seem sad but reasonably calm then death is a very sad reality but one part of a big long picture.

    Hope that is helpful. Listen to your instincts. They’ll give you everything you need to get your children through this.

  • michelle barrington

    Chantelle I am so sorry to hear this news for you, hubby and your family. Cancer is shit. I haven’t been in this situation with my children but my SIL did have cancer a couple of years ago which impacted Raya. I believe that honesty with kids, in age appropriate language is best. Raya is perceptive like Lacey and what their anxious minds can come up with is often worse. I think highlighting the things that may change for them eg your mum might need to look after them if you and hubby need to help your MIL while confirming the things that will not change, whatever you work those out to be. I would start to find some books, and start reading them slowly eg The Invisible String intermingled with what you normally read them. Be prepared to answer their questions over and over and over again and tell the kids it is okay to ask you questions because sometimes kids need to hear this particularly if they are worried their questions will upset adults. Reassure the girls that you and hubby won’t get cancer and the girls won’t get cancer. If the cancer is terminal I would buy a beautiful journal and put some questions in it that the girls come up with eg tell me a funny story, what was it like when you were my age so that your MIL can leave those memories/stories for your girls to look back on when they are older.

  • Tracy H

    So sorry. Big Hugs for you all xx

  • Jenni from Styling Curvy

    Oh Chan so sorry you are all going through this. My kids were 5 and 8 when they lost their great grandma to cancer, we took them to visit the hospital occasionally and I think it helped them to understand what the entire family were going through. It’s personal and you need to go with your gut, you will know. We are on the same path with my husband’s mother too. Sending love hun x

  • Reannon

    All the best to your family. I have no good advice that hasn’t already been offered but please remember to look after yourself too x

  • Belinda Docwra

    Oh honey, sending lots of love your way.
    It’s so hard to know what to do and say with adults in these situations, let alone kids.
    I’ve always dealt with these shitty situations as honestly as possible.
    My brother in law died suddenly a couple of months before Sadie was 2, my nieces were 5, 7 and 11. We had no time to prepare answers for them, we didn’t have the answers ourselves. Honesty was the only way we could deal with the situation. Following that I have had several family members and friends that have been hit with the big C. While it’s not for everyone, I made the decision that facts were going to be what worked for us in these situations.
    What I have always done though is focused on the positives a particular person had brought into our lives and while we are sad that they can’t stay on this earth for a long time, look at what they have done here. (I hope that makes sense).
    Not sure if that has helped at all. Sending you lots of love and light beautiful lady xx

  • Karen Casey

    I’m sorry your family is going through this. I went through this with my dad five years ago and had to explain it to my two boys, who were very close to him. At the time I did a little research, as like your daughter my eldest son is an anxious child. The advise I got was to be straight forward and honest about what was going on. Unclear or unanswered questions tend to cause further anxiety. My son actually asked if Papa was going to die and I had to be straight up and say yes. I had to explain what dying meant in as simple terms as possible and I explained what the funeral would be like – what we would see, hear and do. My son surprised me how well he handled the information. The times were still tough, but he got through it and so did I.
    I hope this is in some way helpful. Good luck, and best wishes through this tough time for your family.

  • Lisa

    Be upfront with Lacie. Let her know exactly what is going on. I work with children that have anxiety and believe it or not , anxious kids fair better when they are prepared, know facts and are kept in the loop. They think very logically in times like this . Lulu not so much as she is younger. Children that are older need to be prepped for this or the shock of when death happens can spiral them . You are doing her a big disservice by dancing around being upbeat. Children are allowed to see uncomfortable times .