As a breast cancer survivor, I know first-hand the power of art and creative expression…
People often ask me how how to talk to kids about breast cancer. And I don’t say Talk in the past sense (even though I’m cancer-free), I say it in the present-sense because it’s an on-going conversation. As kids grow, they ask different questions and your answers might change. But all in all, no matter what your answers are, there are five main tenets that I use to guide me, and by using them, I’ve never struggled or worried.
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How to talk to your kids about breast cancer
Welcome to another Toasting Tuesdays.
Today, I’m toasting wisdom gleamed from both my dad and my grandmother. While both were extremely different, their wisdom played a significant part in my breast cancer recovery. And to this day, I used their lessons as part of my guiding principles, especially when talking to my kids about difficult subjects…like breast cancer.
Tip #1: Be Honest
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again-the key to raising resilient kids is to show them that you’re human.
To be honest and through that honesty, show your strength.
Do this, and they will learn by your example!
My grandmother was a holocaust survivor, and she never hid anything from us. I grew up hearing all of her stories about life in the concentration camp and the things she did to survive. And by listening to her, I learned how to be strong. Not only did it give me perspective on what it means to “have it rough,” but I learned how to stay strong, stay positive, and never give up.
And that’s what I try to teach my girls…
…THE POWER OF STRENGTH, DETERMINATION, AND NEVER GIVING UP.
I put it in terms they can understand—ex: math homework, cleaning their room, or working hard to reach a special goal (like getting a part in a musical).
And all of this goes back to being HONEST.
I didn’t hide anything when I was sick-including the day I had to shave my head. We worked through it as a family.
When my 2 year old said she had boo-boos too (imaginary ones), I let her cover herself with bandaids. And when she said her dolly had lymphedema on her arm, she made a sleeve (out of sock) for her to wear, like Mommy.
And now that my girls are older and understand more about what it means to be sick, I’m still very honest with them. (I talk more about this later in my article, so keep reading).
Tip #2: It’s ok to Be Vulnerable and Scared
I am giving you permission to be vulnerable and to be scared.
Now, let go and give yourself permission to be vulnerable and be scared. It’s ok.
Being scared is healthy. We all have to face our fears. it’s part of being strong.
IT ALLOWS US TO BE BRAVE.
I often think of that wonderful quote from John Wayne—
John Wayne Said “Courage is Being Scared to death… and saddling up anyway.” Read more here. #BreastCancerAwareness Click To Tweet
“Courage is Being Scared to death… and saddling up anyway.”
Tip #3: Keep Moving Forward
But what’s most important is moving forward.
As John Wayne said—you’ve still gotta get on that horse—saddle up—keep going.
And that’s the most important part.
The difference between being brave and being scared is that the brave person marches on.
They might not know what’s in store for them, but they’re not going to take it lying down.
They keep moving.
(Say it again, with me)
They keep moving forward.
So how do you do this as a family?
Well, you can CELEBRATE different milestones during treatment.
• when you’re half-way through chemo
• when you’ve completed chemo
• when you’ve completed radiation
• when you’ve had your surgery, etc.
You get the idea. And then of course, have a big celebration when you’re done.
But do it as a family so it’s therapeutic for everyone, especially the kids, especially for your spouse, and especially for you.
Tip # 4: Keep Celebrating Post-Treatment
And don’t stop celebrating when you’re done treatment.
Be sure to celebrate little things throughout the year!
• Stop and get ice cream on a hot day in August
• Go to a family painting class
• Visit someplace new and fun (aquarium or a new museum exhibit)
• Do a breast cancer walk together or volunteer at a BC Walk cheer station
• Paint pink pumpkins in October
Celebrate Your Survivorship everyday but especially during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Here are some fun ways to decorate in pink power style:
Make some Yummy Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies (complete with Breast Cancer Awareness Ribbons)
Tip #5: Be positive and empower your kids with healthy living
When I went through my breast cancer treatments, my girls were small. They didn’t really understand what was going on. They just knew Mommy had lots of boo-boos. But now that they’re in elementary school they hear things about cancer on TV, and they’ve started asking questions.
This past year, they really started asking questions when Doc McStuffins had a show about a little girl going through chemo. Doc had to shave the doll’s hair because it was covered in gum. It was a very bittersweet episode.
And it reminded my girls of when I had lost my hair.
They suddenly realized that all my boo-boos were from cancer too. So we had a big talk and I answered all of their questions honestly.
I explained that I was lucky because the doctors gave me really good medicine so now I’m fine.
They asked if they might get sick when they get older and I told them Maybe but the doctors will give them really good medicine too that will be even better than mine, and they’ll be fine!
Empower your kids with things they can control
And most importantly, I try to empower them with something we do have control over which is living a healthy lifestyle.
I explained how important it is to be healthy and eat well and exercise.
I reminded them that’s why we do all those things.
And we talked about all the fun things we do that are healthy—walking the dog, playing at the playground, hiking on the weekends, eating our fruits and vegetables, eating healthier desserts.
Then they both chimed in “And never eating too much sugar!”
Model a positive outlook
I also reminded them about how important it is to be positive and always look to the future.
Think nice thoughts, and don’t worry because worrying is not healthy for your body.
We only want to do things that are healthy.
Things can be scary when you’re going through treatment—but it’s like a thunderstorm. You have to find the rainbow at the storm’s end…or the beautiful sunset.You have to find the rainbow at the storm’s end #breastcancer #thinkpink Click To Tweet
Always look for the sunset-it brings a beauty in tomorrow.
For those of you who follow my blog, might have heard my story about my dad and the sunsets, but I’ll share it again.Always look for the sunset-it brings a beauty in tomorrow.-Shana Lourie Sutton Read more about positivity in life and breast cancer here. Click To Tweet
Growing up, whenever we’d see a beautiful, vibrant sunset, my dad would always say “Look girls! Beautiful sunset—it’s gonna be a beautiful day tomorrow.”
It all began after a really bad thunderstorm which scared the heck out of me and my sister. When the wind stopped howling and the rain stopped pouring, and the thunder and lightning had left, we saw a spectacular sunset.
And my dad said “See, everything’s going to be ok. It’s going to be a beautiful day tomorrow.” And forever after, whenever, we saw a beautiful sunset, we knew the next day would be great weather and a great day.
Fast forward to when I got sick with breast cancer, these words of wisdom took on a whole new meaning, and I realized that no matter how bad a day I was having, if I saw a sunset I knew tomorrow would be good-everything would be ok.
So I want YOU to remember that too.
If you and your family are having a bad day, look for the rainbows and the sunsets because they are the promise of another beautiful day.
And always remember to CELEBRATE THE COCKTAIL OF LIFE!
Looking for more Breast Cancer Resources?
Check out my Breast Cancer Resource Page.
As you scroll through, you’ll find links to all the articles I wrote about my journey, including information on the American Cancer Society’s Look Good Feel Better program, How to Pick out a Wig, and What to Expect during the MRI.
And of course, if you ever need more advice, feel free to send me an email [email protected]
HI! I’m a Shana, self-proclaimed Media Mixologist, wife, and mom to two little girls. I love to mix up cocktails of crafts, recipes, wellness, family and business with just the right amount of sparkle to help you shine everyday. So, grab a glass, and let’s celebrate the cocktail of life!