How do you explain cancer to a toddler?
My nephew and I used to be best buds, watching movies together, playing hide and seek, fighting imaginary zombies, making playdough. Normal 2-year-old stuff.
We can't do that anymore. Well, I can't. I can't run around the house and play chase. Sometimes I can barely sit and play Legos. And it's frustrating! For both of us.
To any person who has been a parent while going through chemo, kudos to you! I am so grateful I don't have kids right now.
My family and I have tried to explain to my nephew that I'm sick, that a doctor is helping me, that I have "owies." I've shown him the scars from my surgeries. He tells me about his own owies and talks about getting better.
"You get better too, Manda?"
"Yes, I'm getting better."
"Doctor gives you medicine? Make owies go away?"
On a certain level, he understands. However, it's the invisible owies that are difficult to explain, like why I'm tired all the time or if I have a body ache. Those symptoms are harder to explain because they can't be seen. (I really need to research a better way of explaining things to him. Homework for tonight!)
When my hair started falling out, that was terrifying for him. He avoided me for weeks and refused to play with me, even after we tried on hats and wigs together. This from a kid who last Halloween saw a guy in a scary clown mask and demanded the guy put it back on when he took it off. My Gollum hair was more upsetting to my nephew than a blood-splattered clown!
The sad part is, the above image is totally true.*
Some side effects are not mentioned in drug pamphlets. Some side effects affect family members. Some side effects include your nephew announcing "I don't like you" and "Go away!"
So my nephew is mad at me. I totally understand. I won't pressure him into liking me when he's upset because I'm too tired and sick and weak to play with him.
I'm mad too, kid. Trust me, I'm mad too.
*I feel like I should explain. My nephew likes watching scary shows. He loves Scooby-Doo and Ghostbusters and Monster's, Inc. He watches clips featuring the Wicked Witch and doesn't give a hoot about Dorothy and friends. He accidentally saw Slender Man on my iPhone and wanted to play the game. Pennywise he discovered on his own while browsing YouTube (he's a tech savvy toddler), and his mom put a stop to It (haha, pun). I have always introduced kid-friendly shows and respected his boundaries. If he says he wants to stop watching because he's bored or scared or whatever, I turn off the movie. Don't worry, he also likes Frozen and Nick Jr.