Telling People
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When the nurse had given me the lump lowdown, she asked me if I had any questions.
I didn’t want to ask about medical stuff – they had already told me loads and the rest was in the book or on the end of a phone. So I blurted out pretty much the only question I cared about: How do I tell my kids?
The answer was much as I had expected: be honest and straightforward, don’t panic them or patronise them. What I wasn’t expecting was another book: a superhero comic guide to breast cancer. Genius idea. That’ll be as useful to me as to my superyoungest, aged 12 (the other two are 14 and 17). It’s called Medikidz Explain Breast Cancer, and it's that picture up there.
Telling them was much easier than I feared. Just tell them straight. So I did. Any questions? Yes: can I go out and play on the estate now? Yes, off you go, son.
Kids are very resilient. Of course, there may be times when it bothers them more – not least when I am lying around post-surgery demanding that they bring me drinks, snacks and stuff to read. I warned them about this. Youngest replied: “But you do that anyway, Mum.” Cheeky blighter.
Then there was the phone call to the parents. That made me sad. I think I’d know how I’d feel if any of my kids got this awful disease, even if they were nearly 50 and I were still around. (Tangentially, I do wonder why people so often say ‘I can’t begin to imagine how people feel in x situation’. You can. Try.)
My olds are both 79 and are caring, loving people. I felt bad telling them rotten news. It’s at times like this that I realise that I have to comfort other people as well as other people comforting me.
Then I had to tell work. My boss is a bloke and, nothing personal you know, I just don’t want to discuss it with him. So I’d arranged in advance that I would speak with another manager, a woman, who would keep my boss advised of the essentials. That’s working out OK so far. Of course, being a trade unionist, I know my rights, and I seriously doubt my employer will try to deny me them!
There were a few more people to tell, not least of all lifelong friend and fellow ranting poet Attila the Stockbroker, who has endured camera-up-the-knob treatment for bladder cancer of late, and whose mum survived breast cancer many years back. There is enormous comic potential for boob and knob gags bouncing back and forth between the pair of us. You have been warned.
It remained only to tell the rest of the world via the trusty social media, and the dam burst under the wave of support and solidarity.