Why I decided not to tell my kids that I had cancer

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"The doctor would like you to come in to discuss the results".

My heart sank to the ground. The results of the biopsy I'd had done on a lump in my breast were in.

All hopes of it being a cyst were now gone. Or a blocked milk duct.

I was still breastfeeding my six-month-old baby.

But suddenly I had breast cancer.

Triple negative breast cancer, apparently - a particularly aggressive and fast growing one. Brilliant.

The life I might not have flashed before my eyes. Terror quickly set in, very quickly followed by guilt.

I had two children, one of them a daughter. What if this was genetic? Would she get it too? Had me being me increased her chances?

Would my kids grow up without a mother because I had failed at staying alive? The thoughts were dark and, even 18 months on, haunt me.


At the time of diagnosis my kids were six months and two years old. Tiny. So dependent on me being there for them. To play with them, guide them, be happy and energetic.

I didn't know at that point that the treatment ahead of me would leave me so fatigued that I could barely string a sentence together some days.

We decided very early on that, if possible, we wouldn't tell them that I had cancer.

Of course my baby was too young to know but my daughter, although only two, would know something was wrong.

So we decided to prepare her for the changes to come, but try to take the fear away.

As much as possible, we kept them away from appointments. Hospitals can be scary places for kids and I didn't want her to see me hooked up to machines.

As well as me being sick, one of my biggest worries was how she might cope with the loss of my hair. I simply would not look like her mummy anymore.

It was the main reason I invested in a wig and hats, so that when the hair fell out, I could hide it.

I'll never forget the day she opened a cupboard to see my wig on its stand and shouted, "Mummy, your hair is in the cupboard!" It made me chuckle - perhaps she thought all mummies put their hair in the cupboard at bed time?

The day I let my kids see my bald head for the first time scared me. I wanted to protect them from the horror of what I was going through.

We were still firm in not mentioning why my hair had gone - just that I'd decided to shave it off and start growing it again. Luckily, at their young age, they didn't question it.

My mum came up with a lovely idea - to tell my daughter that my hair would grow back a bit more with every hug she gave. I needed those hugs as much as she did.

As treatment went on my husband took over my role in the family in the times I couldn't. On the days when I was too unwell to do much, I tried to stay physically present as much as I could.

Watching my kids, full of energy and in good health, spurred me on to get well too.

As treatment finished, my energy levels rose and my hair started to grow back. I'm slowly returning to the mummy I was before cancer, although of course I'll never be the same.

I still live with so much guilt about the disruption my illness brought to our family. I know the day will come when I will sit down with my kids and tell them about my health issues of the past. Although we found out my cancer is not an inherited one, I still want to ensure they are educated about the disease.

I want to protect them.

But the decision not to tell my kids that I had cancer was right for our family.

Mim blogs at Love From Mim. You can follow her on Facebook.