I’ve always known he’d ask. That he’d put two and two together. I just never imagined that it would be so soon.
Oliver and I were lying in his bed as I was snuggling him to sleep. At one moment we were talking about his day and with no segue at all he asked me again (he asks me a lot), “Mommy, why did they have to take off your breast?” I gave him my usual answer. “There was something in my breast and if we didn’t get it out, it would have made me very sick.”
Usually, he leaves it at that, or begins to ask my questions about having the surgery, did I feel anything in the surgery, questions about my reconstruction, etc… I always answer honestly. But this time, tonight, he asked me the question I have always been dreading.
“Mommy, if they didn’t take away your breast, could you die?”
“Yes. But, they did take my breast and now I’m healthy again.”
I heard him breathe in and out, gently. He took in that information. I’m not sure how his little brain processed this because he followed it up with his usual questions. “How did they make you a new breast?” “Were you in pain?” “How long were you in pain?” “Did it make you sad? Do you feel sad now?”
After he asked me all of his questions, he very wisely said, “Wow, that was a big conversation.”
Yes. Yes it was.
These questions…these questions I never wanted my child to have to ask. But cancer has made us all age beyond our years
I thought that when Oliver asked me about my cancer and death, I’d feel sad. That I would ache for him knowing that his mother had faced mortality and that he could be directly affected by this. But that is not what I feel. I feel proud of him. I feel proud that he was brave enough to ask the question. I feel proud that he is so smart and intuitive, that he could come to this conclusion himself at such a young age. I’m proud that the weight of this conversation was not lost on him. He totally gets it. But I’m most proud that he feels comfortable asking me.
One of the last things I said to him before he fell asleep was, “I know that this was a big conversation. But I want you to know that I will always tell you the truth. Is that ok?”
He turned over, snuggled his back into my chest, and fell asleep.