Life throws us curve balls. All of us.
Good health, bad health -- life and death. This is all part of the human experience.
And when you have a family and close friends, these people have a right to know what is happening in your life. More importantly -- they NEED to be OK with the situation -- whatever it may be, so that YOU can get the help you need to survive as well.
This past September we got a real scare when my husband was diagnosed with Throat Cancer.
Yup, the C word.
We have always been very open and honest with our children and believe that explaining what's happening while it's happening makes things easier to absorb and handle. That doesn't mean lots of scary details, but we never try to hide anything because we know that can make the situation confusing for everyone.
Our children are 10 and 12. The kids knew when their dad went to see his doctor to better understand why he was having a difficult time swallowing after being hit in the neck by a baseball in early September. We told them that there was a lump but additional tests were needed to determine what it was. And when we learned about the diagnosis and the prognosis, we shared that with them, too. Our doctor was kind enough to give us a picture of the tumor and with that, we were able to show them exactly what the doctors had to treat in their dad's throat.
I think that the gradual revelation of what was happening without any dramatic hand-wringing helped them cope with the upset this health condition would bring to their daily lives. We also encouraged them to talk to their friends and cousins and we shared the diagnosis with the staff members at school so that they could be supportive if the kids needed someone to talk with. In other words, we didn't hide anything from them, and we didn't ask them to keep the burden of secrets.
And now that the crisis is over, they know that it will take a good year before their Dad may fully regain his strength, ability to taste and stamina. But things for the most part, are getting back to normal. We all seemed to breathe again the night that he sat down at the dinner table with us and cracked one of his wise jokes!
Everyone has a different approach to sharing news like this with family and friends. I know of one woman who has a very public page in Facebook. She is an inspiration to many, and annoying to others who don't understand why she shares everything. I know of many other wonderful people who chose to keep everyhing private -- even from their children and all but a handful of friends. I don't think anyone can tell anyone else what to do in these situations, but I do believe that when the next shoe drops (and they always do!) we'll likely use the same approach we did this time.
It is my belief that we truly need each other to survive. Countless studies have shown very high correlations between healthy and happy lives with those who maintain a close relationship with family and friends. (For the record, family doesn't have to be blood-related to count in my book.) And the basis of all good relationships is trust, is it not?
By telling your children what is happening to you as it happens, you teach them how to handle a crisis in a calm and proactive way. Despite your best efforts to keep them away from the news, they will sense that something is very wrong. Why not bring them into the discussion, let them know that it is OK to be concerned, it's OK to hope for the best? Our kids learned that nothing is certain, and sometimes, things can take a turn for the worst at a moment's notice. And conversely, if you remain calm and take care of the problem, things can get better.