I guess in a nine year old’s mind, this is much cooler than saying your Mum is having chemotherapy and is going bald. I was a little worried about his embarrassment so I tried to explain to him that it is nothing to be ashamed of: he could look at it another way and stand proud that his Mum is successfully fighting cancer.
Max is in year four and he still likes me to get out of the car with him each morning and walk him through the school gate to his classroom where his friends are waiting to play. I am happy to do this – in a few years it may be totally ‘uncool’ to be seen in public with his Mum, so I relish those little moments while I can.
Max was very quiet as we approached his school that morning. When I pulled up, I jumped out of the car to walk him through the school gate to his waiting friends (as we have always done). However, he stopped me about 5 metres from the gate and said, “It’s ok Mum, you can leave me here.” He then reached up and threw his arms around my neck to give me a kiss and ran off through the gate into the school yard alone. My little pep talk hadn’t worked: he was still embarrassed to be seen with his balding Mum.
Now, I think I have been pretty strong through this whole cancer thing, I have only cried a few times since I was diagnosed, but that little moment opened the flood gates. I stood for a minute near the gate, tears filling my eyes. I didn’t know whether to follow him into the school yard and talk to him again, make sure he is ok, or leave him be. After I turned toward and away from the gate a couple of times, I went to the car and cried for a few minutes. I didn’t cry because I felt sorry for myself. I cried because I am not the only victim of this stupid cancer: the insidious thing has infected my children as well, not physically but emotionally.
When I got home that morning, I called the Vice-Principal at Max’s school and shared with her the airforce episode and my concern about Max’s embarrassment. Mrs Thompson (the VP) was just wonderful. She helped Max explain to his friends what was really happening, and that I am not, in fact, Maverick! As it turns out, a girl in Max’s class has a Nanna going through chemotherapy as well, so he was actually not the only one amongst his friends touched by cancer.
Kids say the darndest things...
While visiting my sister, Kate, and her family in Byron Bay recently, I tried to give my four year old niece, Sinead, a cuddle. She looked at me and told me straight out she wouldn't hug me unless I put my hair back on!