I am a 56-year-old mother and have recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic cancer. I have a teenage daughter who is about to turn 15. Do I tell her now and give her months of worry? Or do I hold off for as long as possible (i.e. until my illness becomes obvious) to save her from unnecessary stress?
I am already struggling to explain why I am signed off sick from work.
Has anyone ever had to do this? Should I get her counselling now or later?
Grateful for your comments.
Hi and a very warm welcome to the online community and I am sorry you've had to reach out to us with such a difficult dilemma that you have and I hope we can help you find the correct direction to go.
I would think it would be best to be upfront and open with your daughter at 15 she will be aware of what's going on and could be very upset and resentful if she finds out later that you have been diagnosed and you've kept it from her.
Receiving this information could have an affect on her school work and as soon as you've told her I would advise that inform her school to enable them to keep an eye on her at school and on her school work, she may find it difficult to concentrate and the school, being aware, can make allowances for her having a change in her attitude to school.
As you progress through this journey you can be there for each other and be a soundboard for each other.
We at Macmillans have a book that you may be of interest to you and help you find the words to speak to your daughter. You can download the book Talking to children from here by clicking on the green text, you'll will need to create an account and you use your Macmillans email address and password.
The main thing you bear in mind is that you should be prepared before you start to speak to your daughter and ready to answer questions honestly if you don't know the answer tell her so and come back on here and ask the members of the Pancreatic cancer who are all very friendly and supportive and will help you with anything you need to know.
Good luck with speaking to your daughter I am sure she will appreciate your honesty and help you through the next few months.
Please speak to us rather than be tempted to Google for information as the members of the Pancreatic cancer group all have either been in your shoes at one time or are living with the diagnosis and can give you first hand factual information.
Please keep us informed how you get on.
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Hi, I thought that this might be of interest to you.
If you are fortunate enough to have a Maggies Centre near to you they have the following available.
Support for Children
In a number of our Centres we offer one-off Kids Days and Teen Days for children and young people who have a parent with cancer. These sessions provide a space in which young people can explore their concerns, meet others in the same situation and find out more about what is happening to their mum or dad.
If you would like support talking to your children about cancer please get in touch with your local Centre. You can find your nearest Maggies Centre by clicking on the green text above and entering in your postcode.
Even if your local Maggies Centre doesn't have children's support activities it might be worth you having a look at their services that could be of help to you.
If we can be if any further help please do contact us again the door that leads to the online community and our experts is always open for you to come in and ask questions
Jen and I told our (then) teenage sons on the day of Jen's breast cancer diagnosis. At the time, we didn't know the stage, only that it was a grade 3. It was the first of many difficult decisions we had to make - arguably the most difficult of our lives to that point - but was definitely the right decision looking back.
I can't advise when you should tell your daughter but I certainly advise that you do.
If you hold off until you know all the facts...well, you'll never tell her. Even now Jen's main treatments are finished there's still uncertainty. But by knowing, your daughter is better equipped to support you and it's one less thing for you to worry about. I imagine things are going to be difficult enough without having to maintain a subterfuge.
Speaking as someone who's been on the other side of the coin, so to speak, I can tell you how angry and hurt I was when I discovered Mum held off telling my brother and I about her breast cancer for months because she 'didn't want to spoil Christmas'.
It's a double edged sword - you don't want it to affect your daughter's life, particularly her studies, but you don't want to create a gulf of mistrust either. Similarly, you need to weigh up against her finding out by accident and how that will impact her belief in you when you tell her things from that point - ie 'what else isn't mum telling me?'.
When you do tell her, have the facts to hand, don't make things up or speculate too much. If you think you'll struggle to speak, have a close relative or friend with you who can speak for you. Forgive me if I'm making assumptions but Jen was almost unable to speak, so I did most of the talking.
Keep language simple. Tell her what you know (facts) - avoid statistics as they rarely help in these circumstances - write down any questions she asks that you don't immediately have answers for and get back to her.
If she's anything like our two, she'll want to know how she can help. Besides practical day-to-day household things, we told the boys it would be the most help to us if they didn't let it affect their lives, that they did the stuff they normally do. That would give us the peace of mind to focus on getting through treatment.
It's also worth bringing your daughter's school into the wider conversation to make sure they're at least aware so she's supported in her studies. If she's adversely affected, leeway can often be given, particularly where exams and homework are concerned.
I can't advise on the counseling side of things but the school may be able to advise on that side of things?
I hope this helps even if it's only a little.
Wishing you the very best,
I am so very sorry to hear about your diagnosis. That’s very hard. I’m living with incurable cancer and I’m a single mum of two teenagers (now 15 and 18) and I think Dom OneTooManyBiscuits has said everything I’d want to say - and much better than I might have managed.
I have just one thing to add. Children often have predictable reactions to serious illness in a parent - but they might not be the ones we expect. I was given some very useful information early on by the counselling team at my local hospice that outlined these reactions by age group. For example, kids aged 8-12 will often show a lot of anger. Younger teenagers 13-17 are quite likely to appear selfish. My girls fit into these behaviour patterns to a tee. It was tricky (still is) to live with an apparently selfish teenager but it did help to understand that the behaviour was normal and it was their way of coping.
Stay in the day. Have a look at the group living with incurable cancer if you’re feeling up to it. There are several parents of children struggling with the same stuff as you and it’s not all doom and gloom. We cheer each other up and listen to each other’s rants.
Maybe I will see you there? I hope so
love and hugs xxx
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Thank you Bodach. Helpful advice, much appreciated.
Again thank you Ian. I think there’s a Maggie’s Centre at Charing Cross Hospital so we’ll get in touch with them.
Thank you Dom, your reply pretty much sums it up... I’m very grateful that you’ve taken the time to share your experience. We’re bracing ourselves to tell her this weekend - but I can tell you I feel more confident that I’m doing the right thing thanks to the feedback I’ve received from you all.
Thank you Daloni. So helpful to have other people’s experience and I so appreciate your reply when you’ve got so much else on your plate. Weirdly enough I would be quite comforted if my daughter has a selfish response. What I’m terrified of, is that she’ll fall to pieces. I feel so guilty to burdening her with this.
Much love and strength to you too. xxx
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