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How to talk to a 5-year-old about cancer

When I was diagnosed with lymphoma back in November, my wife, Melissa, and I made sure we did the best job we could to explain everything to our 5-year-old daughter. Melissa did a great job of explaining that "Daddy has germs called cancer," which meant she should be using hand sanitizer and not coughing on me.

I'm convinced our daughter didn't understand most of it, though she complied and cooperated to the point where I wished I'd owned stock on Purell. The fact that I didn't look sick probably didn't help our daughter's comprehension of cancer. Typically, I felt ill for up to 10 days after each chemo treatment, though it was never too severe. Even when my hair began to fall out and I shaved my head, it was more amusing to our daughter than frightening.

So I was taken aback last week when I was driving our daughter home from school and she asked: "Daddy, do you have cancer?"

I have no idea where that came from, but I answered with speed and enthusiasm: "Not anymore!"

"Me, either!" she quickly replied.

"Did someone talk to you about cancer?" I asked her, wondering if perhaps one of her teachers brought it up.

"No," she replied. "Hey, can we stop at Dairy Queen?"

Guess I'll never know since 5-year-olds are masters of the non sequitur.

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