Doctor to his patient: Mrs. Whitley, I’m very sorry, you have lung cancer.
Narrator: What could be worse than hearing this from your doctor?
Narrator: Saying it to your kids… Mrs. Whitley, sitting in front of her young children starts by saying ummmmm……
We all have seen this commercial. It’s pretty frightening… I know, I have been there.
But, more on that in a moment. This commercial’s message is quite clear — if you smoke, you most likely will get cancer. But as the commercial REALLY states, your smoking is not just about you, it’s always about those who love you. There is nothing good about smoking. The effects of smoking are far-reaching and it is also possibly the worst thing you can do to yourself – and others. But how do you tell your kids?
You know the commercial, and no matter where or when you see this it is awful, just awful. Yet, it really does happen. Believe me, been there, done that. But how do you tell your kids?
But sometimes it is the WAY we communicate news and events that can make the difference. Let’s face it; Mrs. Whitley has a real issue, no question. But how do we tell our kids? How do we tell others?
This past Sunday, Feb. 26, marked the four-year anniversary of when I lost my legs. I cannot fathom what my wife Lisa went through when she had to tell our kids. She had to tell them. This was not something I could hide. Why is Daddy wearing boots all the time? But how did she tell them was a study in parenting communication.
Our oldest daughter (13 at the time) was very emotional and our youngest (7 at the time) was very inquisitive about what was going on with my illness. Each had a different level of need and each had a different level of understanding.
What Lisa did was to say upfront that I was seriously ill and amputating my legs was necessary to save my life — but there were no guarantees. Lisa was preparing them for something else which at the time seemed to be inevitable.
Lisa also said the best care available would be provided to me and when I was well enough, everyone could go and see me. Lisa did a lot of handholding through this time and kept reassuring them both. The reassurance gave them confidence, and confidence kept them stable.
Lisa also did something very smart. As I was in a coma for a long time, our daughters were not allowed to see me. Only after I awoke and was somewhat coherent were they allowed to see me for a little while. I remember the look on their faces when they walked in and saw me. And I remember them looking back as they were leaving.
We were nervous on their reaction. The visit was not long, but it was necessary and it was good.
Lisa also told them of my progress and she saw me every day and would gently tell them what was going on and when they can next see me. Lisa has a very soothing way about her. The confidence in her approach kept the situation stable.
I have gone through this twice myself as I had had cancer several times, the last time in 2005-2006. Not only did I have children to tell but a wife and my parents and sister and family and a job and clients and the list goes on and on. But that is for another time to share. For now I will share what we went through the first time I went through cancer.
Years ago when I was first diagnosed with cancer – Mrs. Whitley you are not alone – I had an operation on Valentine's Day 1982.
Side note here...the surgeon gave me red stitches! The next day one of my doctors came in and said, “Rich, your spleen was full of cancer, was three times the size of a normal organ and was about to burst.” Not having a spleen indirectly led me to where I am today but suffice to say if it were not removed chances are good someone else would be writing this BLOG.
I was really afraid. Because of what the surgeons found when I was operated on. My classification was borderline Stage IV and there would be so much more now to be done. I had to tell my father.
When I called my Dad all of the emotions came out. This was scary for anyone, let alone a 21-year-old kid.
What snapped me back was I first started to tell him he said – “I know, I know all about it and you will be fine. This is what we will do.”
Then my Dad proceeded to tell me what we would, how we would do it and how we would do it together.
My father had a very soothing way about him which went a long way in this type of conversation. My father’s reassurance gave me confidence, and confidence kept me stable. The irrepressible emotion of fear had now been replaced by the overwhelming level of confidence that we can beat this together.
Thirty years later Konfidence is still King.