Last night, I tried to entice Katelyn to read a picture book about a boy and his pet dragon. Unlike me, who would love my own dragon, Katelyn is not a fan. I flashed a page showing the boy walking Sparky the dragon on a leash. In response, Katelyn dumped out a tub of blocks and began to play. I flipped to the next page, which depicted Sparky being examined by a pediatrician. Katelyn ran over to the couch, climbed up next to me, pointed at the physician, and said, "Dr. K! Katelyn's doctor is Doctor K. Mommy's doctor is Doctor Sharma."
My child is more interested in doctors than dragons or blocks.
Although she is only two, this past year has left it's mark on her as well. She's accompanied me to so many of my doctor's appointments--not to mention visiting me in the hospital, that she thinks being examined by a doctor is cool. She looked forward to her two-year check-up with Dr. K for weeks, and didn't even flinch during her immunizations.
This evening, she went with me to Dr. Sharma's office for a blood test. Without prompting, she charged down the hall to the lollipop jar. When Lily pulled two purple rubber gloves from the dispenser, Katelyn tucked her chin to her chest and wouldn't look up. She knew what would happen next.
While I was buckling her into the car seat, she asked when she would see Dr. K. next.
I told her if she gets sick, she will see Dr. K.
"Are you sick?" she asked.
The question punched me in the gut. I hadn't expected her to make that connection. I tightened the car seat strap and said, "Remember when I was in the hospital? I was sick then, but now I'm better. Dr. Sharma's making sure I don't get sick again." A simple no, or even a yes, would have satisfied her, but I felt compelled to reassure her, or rather, me.
Nothing about cancer is easy, and raising children while battling it is particularly not easy. We are fortunate enough that Katelyn wasn't able to comprehend the severity of the events last spring. But someday, she will. Someday she will worry about me, and someday she will have to grapple with the fact that cancer killed the sister who should have been her best friend.
Being a cancer patient and parent isn't just emotionally challenging, but physically as well. Your children's need for you doesn't stop when treatment starts.
Parenting through cancer is a complex topic that deserves attention, so my next three entries will address the following:
Part 1: Talking With Children About Cancer
Part 2: Parenting During Treatment
Part 3: How Cancer Changes Parenting Style
If you have experience with this, please leave a comment or send me a message via Facebook or Twitter.