June 6, 2012

Perspective, a father’s: What to Say?

What Should We Say to Judy?

How do you talk to your ten year daughter faced with a diagnosis of Hodgkins Disease? It is one question we  sat with on a daily basis.

It came up in the first hours after our learning the pathologist’s report.

How do you look at your child and deliver such news in a way that she can handle it, that you can handle it?

Judy has committed her lived experience to ink in a book written several years ago. In her book, she makes an interesting observation. She reports these events accurately though we were unaware of all we were doing. This is how she remembers our coming home that evening, as she reports in her book.

“Neither of them looked me straight in the eyes. Instead they simply went about their activities taking off their coats and hats and boots…They seemed so sad, and so scared. They looked as if they had been crying.”

Indeed, we didn’t look her straight in the eyes because we didn’t know how to say what we knew we had to say. HOW do you talk to your young daughter about, a disease very likely fatal? Many, many parents have faced the same question and it was a question Sylvia and I thought and talked about much over the next days and weeks.

But THAT evening we had not had the time to ponder, to reflect. We, as parents, had to act, to speak, to lead as Judy was well aware that we had gone to see the doctor.

Talk of death and fatal illness was perhaps in our future, but not tonight. Our immediate challenge was to decide, discern how much to tell her and in what degree of detail?

Our decision that evening was to tell her as simply and straightforwardly as we could what we thought a ten year old would be most interested in knowing.

We told her that she would need to be in the hospital for a time and that more tests would be needed, and that her mother would be by her side in the hospital whenever possible.

We tried to answer all her questions truthfully, but not to volunteer more information or make predictions, information of the sort we parents could not help thinking about. As we learned later, a child’s concerns are often not as long range as ours.

We have never regretted how and what we discussed with Judy about her illness. We think we were given the grace and wisdom to say the right things, to be absolutely truthful but not to add to the trauma a ten year old child could so easily experience.

I believe that Judy, in her book years later, confirms that. In her opinion too, we made the right decisions in this regard.

We invite you to share with us how you shared or received news of your diagnosis by leaving a comment.

JOY in THIS day!




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