Saturday, March 11, 2017

Stupid Cancer - With a smile and a bit of hope

My kids gave me this bag when I graduated from UAB years ago.  It has traveled room to room in my office as I have cared for my little charges and their families.  My first experience with melanoma occurred while working on that degree, but all the rest has been dealt with while employed at my current office. As you can see, my bag has been embellished along the way.

Clearly, my bosses/coworkers and dear nursing peeps have always been fully aware of my diagnosis and treatment.  I've never been secretive about much of anything when it comes to me!!! (Despite that, or maybe because of it, ????, I am a very good secret keeper for others!!!) Some families are aware of my diagnosis....I mean, I work in a small town in the south!!!!  But, I don't routinely share personal details with my patients.  Their visits are about them!!!!!  Not me. Besides, when you've been a melanoma "patient" for over 13 years - especially in a pediatric office - it's old news!

Still, I've always taught parents, and actively embraced, truthfulness in response to children's questions. Whether they ask about sex, politics, why the grass is green, or what's for dinner, I think it is best to answer them directly, with as little or as much information as they are interested in or are capable of comprehending - and sometimes, that's a lot!

Given to me by a dear friend and nursing peep whose mom was diagnosed with cancer the same year I progressed to Stage IV, my "Stupid Cancer" button has engendered more comments from my little people than I ever expected.  In the middle of many exams, they'll say very quietly, "I think cancer is stupid, too." I reply, "Me, too! Why do you think so?"  This has been an amazing opener that has given many an opportunity to tell me about the sorrow, confusion, anger - they are experiencing while dealing with a cancer diagnosis or death of their beloved uncle, granny, friend... Struggles I would probably know nothing about without the nitus of the button.

But, when dealing with kids, simple questions can sometimes take an unexpected turn.  Last week an incredibly bright little girl, aged 8, toward the end of her physical asked, "Why do you have that cancer, uhhhh, isn't nice, thing on your bag?"  Clearly, she had been taught that calling something 'stupid' wasn't a polite thing to do!!!  "Because that's how I feel about cancer," I replied.  "Me, too!" her mom exclaimed.  "But, why?" the little girl continued. "Well, cancer hurts some folks, so I don't much like it." I shared.  The minute I saw the look on her face, I knew that was not going to be a satisfactory end of the story for her!

"But...." with a serious, you can do better than that....look!!!

"Well," I told her, "I had cancer."  The light of understanding dawned!

She smiled at me sweetly. "Oh!  So that's why your hair is so short!!!!!!!!"

I burst out laughing, as her mother looked mortified. "No, that's just a personal choice.  But, that's really good reasoning, considering!!!"

She smiled again, "I like how you have it!"

#brightkids  #stupidcancer   #reasonIlovemyjob  - les

And....a hopeful video that discusses cancer generally with some melanoma specifics:  Charlie Rose presentation of cancer and its hopeful trends and treatments

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