Loss of Childhood Innocence, the Collateral Damage of Cancer


When you have kids, you want to protect them from all the evils of the world. You monitor their friends, their screen time and do what ever you think may rob them of their childhood innocence. I remember my parents trying to hide my cousin’s death, but I could see from their body language and whispers that something was wrong. Now I understand why they were doing it.

I mean let’s be serious, childhood is about being happy and thinking the world is great. It’s such a short time and you have plenty of time to see the uglier side of life. So what happens when one of the parents gets a serious illness or even worst passes away?

When Molly got diagnosed, I think I should have done a better job protecting my children’s innocence, but in all honesty I myself was new to the Cancer’s FU world. At the beginning I really thought I was doing a good job protecting them, but then I hear them on TV talking about how worried they were all the time. Worst part was that my older daughter said she feels different than the kids who have healthy parents.Double ouch. I don’t really blame her, because we keep telling our daughters to not mention their mother’s cancer to their friends. Dealing with a serious illness in the family is a subject adults have a hard time with, let alone children. In a way I am protecting the other children by making mine feel abnormal. Again failed as a parent, but I think it would be worst if their friend’s parents didn’t want their children around them.

I don’t have an answer or a solution for this problem, but I can tell you what has worked for us. Molly is feeling well and when the children see that, they are happy. When Molly doesn’t feel well we don’t always associate it with her illness. Basically we act normal and do normal things. We also have good friends who have great children. One of them invited us to their beach house last weekend. It felt good to forget about cancer, even if it was for a day.

I love children. Mine are crazy little emotional things that wear me out all day, but melt my heart at the end of the day with their sleepy eyes and funny pajamas. I have also met many parents who themselves or their spouse has been diagnosed with cancer. Couple of these children have been born after parent’s diagnosis. These little miracles have brought much joy to an unhappy situation. I often think of Paul Kalanithi’s essay about time and his daughter who was born right after he was diagnosed.

My friend Kathy (her son was born few months after her husband Jeff’s diagnosis) and I share pictures of our children. It’s nice to have something pleasant to talk about besides cancer, and lets be honest we have some really cute kids! My psychiatrist told me once that patients with small children survive longer because they have a reason to live. Science can not explain why, but it is a common occurrence. They also provide happiness and a reason to go on to those parents who have lost a spouse.

I have received messages from older patients who have told me that they love seeing pictures of their grandchildren first thing in the morning because it puts them in a good mood all day. I personally love seeing happy pictures of children who their parents have been affected by this disease. I hope they will all have normal happy lives despite being handed such a crappy hand in life.

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