From the beginning, Maggie and Reese have known that I was going to a doctor who could check my boobies. In fact, they were there for the two visits to Dr. Houck before she referred me for a mammogram. Once we got the diagnosis, I started mentioning that my boobies are sick, but it totally didn't affect the girls. I could have told them that I'm wearing jeans or we're eating lunch today and gotten the same reaction. But I knew that I needed to get the point across before spending a few days in the hospital because THAT is a big change.
I did some Amazon research and found a book called "When Mommy Had a Mastectomy" and ordered it. It's one of the few books that has "Mommy" in the title instead of "Mom", so I knew it was more likely to be age appropriate. Once we got a copy of that book (actually, two days before the Amazon order arrived because Leo's mom had a copy to loan us), both girls really started understanding that there's going to be an operation. Maggie actually carries the book around and talks about breast cancer pretty regularly.
So here's what I know they understand: Mommy's boobie is sick with something like a germ that's called breast cancer. But it's not a germ that they can catch, and it's not something that will get better like a cold, so the doctors have to cut the cancer out of my boobies. Then, I will not have boobies for a while and I will get new boobies that don't have cancer. (I didn't explain about the expanders that will be filled up. To them, flat equals no boobs, so it doesn't matter how I'm getting the new ones). They know they'll go to Anna's house all day and Daddy will come back before bedtime without Mommy. Then, they'll get to see me in the hospital on Saturday. When I come home (nobody knows when, and to the girls, 2 days or 4 days doesn't make much of a difference), they will have to give me leg hugs, elbow hugs, etc, but no hugs that touch my boobies. Then they can help me get better by bringing me tea and lemonade (that was Reese's idea).
I have been taking every children's book about cancer out of the library that I can. (I have six, I think, shipped to Manlius from every library in Onondaga County.) My biggest issue with these books is that, without fail, they ALL show people sad and crying. I keep explaining to the girls that some people are sad or scared, but that we just want this fixed. I guess the majority of women would have had some days where they cried in front of the kids, so the books are letting them know it's normal.
A book we got today showed a mom crying when her hair was falling out. I told Maggie that after my operation, I will have something called chemo that will get rid of all of the cancer in my body but it also makes hair fall out. But I told her that when my hair falls out, I won't think it's sad, I'll think it's funny and we'll all laugh at my silly hair. Then we'll go shopping for rainbow hats. (If you've been around the girls at all in the past few months, you know that for something to be attractive, it must be rainbow colored.)
Another problem about the books is that many of them have the child asking the mom, "Are you going to die?" Why should I put that question in their heads? So I've been either skipping the line or saying, "Cancer can cause some people to die, but the doctors will fix it so that Mommy won't."
So, in general, I'm being completely honest with the kids. Reese has been pretty cranky all week and has had a few potty accidents, but I don't know if that's related to the cancer thing or just because almost-3-year-olds go through stages.