Recently Diagnosed with Breast Cancer and Need Advise on Telling My 5 Year Old

Updated on March 21, 2011
C.O. asks from Orangeburg, NY
14 answers

I will be starting chemo therapy next week and than surgery and than radiation. I wanted people's advise on how to tell my 5 year old son. My hair will fall out, so that will be a great clue! So I need to address this with him. Obviously I will keep it simple for him to understand. Thanks for your input.

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So What Happened?

Thanks everybody for your words of advice! I told my son this morning. He noticed by bandages on my breasts (from the biopsy) and it was a great opening. I kept it very simple and told him that I have a lump in my breast and I would take medicine that would make me very tired and I would go bald. He thought the bald part was funny and we talked and laughed about that. So it all worked out!

More Answers



answers from Lexington on

I would be upbeat and even humorous about the effects. Tell him clearly that you have some bad fast growing cells growing inside you and the doctors are going to zap them out of you. Have him think about what else grows fast - our hair - so when they zap the bad cells, they will also zap your hair cells. But that will grow back while the even faster cancer (bad) cells won't.

Explain you won't feel well some days and will need his help.

You can draw pictures with him of zapping bad cells with ray guns.

Children's books about touring the body's blood vessels would be a good idea. Here is one: The Magic School Bus inside the human body

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cumberland on

Be scientific and specific. That way he won't think it is something that is going to happen to him if he gets "sick". God bless you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Along with Jeanie's suggestions, I'd encourage a sense of adventure. He could brush out your hair and see how big the pile of hair will get. You could do a daily picture (he can draw it) of how you feel and how he feels.
Many people have said that having cancer was the best thing that ever happened to them; it really wakes you up! The Option Institute's website could be helpful to you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

I would just say something like, "Mommy's got some sick cells in my body that they will need to take out to make me feel better. And the medicine that they will be giving me for it will make me sick for a little bit but then I will be back to new."

Honestly, at 5, I probably wouldn't go into anymore specifics than that. I think that would be enough information to help him process what is going on with you and not so much, that he'll be inclined to worry.

I am sending you prayers and healing and strength. When you get a chance, you may want to check out the book Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life. Also, The Whole Body Workbook for Cancer has a lot of great info on what you can do to lessen the side effects of treatment while you are going through it. I highly recommend both books.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Redding on

I'm so sorry to hear you are going through this. Hang in there! My sister in law went through this and she was really worried about her daughter who was just about the same age as your son.
Just so you know....first of all.......
It was 15 yeas ago and my sister in law is perfectly healthy and fine. She went through hell, but she's still here.
She was very careful about scaring her daughter, but she knew the chemo would make her hair fall out. When it started, she just decided to buzz her head and get it over with. She let her daughter do it. They made it a fun thing. She had really, really long hair too. So, they cut it all kinds of different ways and gave her a mohawk......they took pictures. Then they just buzzed her.
It made her feel she had some control over it and they made it fun.
As fun as possible.
She just explained that some of the medicine she had to take to make her well would make her hair fall out. Instead of it being scary, she just went proactive with it.
Having a really good attitude is key in cancer. I truly believe that. And, you need to let your son see you with a positive attitude.
I work at a hospital and one of our nurses went through chemo. She came to work on light duty and wore her scarves...pushed her IV thing around.
Her hair has grown back so much in the last 2 months. She's doing great!

I wish you the best and I'm going to keep you in my thoughts.
Be sure to take good care of yourself.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

We have a 6 year old and my husband was just diagnosed with colon cancer, so we're in the same boat. His hair won't fall out, but he needs 24 hour continuous chemo followed by some heavy duty surgery, so it's not something that we'll be able to keep a secret.

I checked with our pediatrician, and she said to be honest, but give as little info as possible. If our daughter asks for more information, give it in small chunks. We'll probably tell her that daddy has something in his body that could make him sick, and the doctors are going to give him special medicine to make it small, and then he'll have surgery so that it comes out for good. The medicine might make him feel bad, like the way a shot hurts, but just like shots it's to keep him healthy in the long run. Our doc recommended that we stay away from the word "cancer" until she asks. I'm not sure that we're going to go that route; a big part of me is inclined to say that the thing in his body has a name, it's called cancer, and it's something that only happens to grown ups. I just don't want her to overhear the word and think that it's something so scary we can't talk to her about it. But we're not quite there yet.

I wish you the best of luck. I am so sorry that this happened. It's scary as all hell. If you want to PM me, you're welcome too. I know that it's not me that has cancer, but it was pretty clear pretty quickly that this is something that happens to a whole family. I'll be thinking of you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I would ask the hospital or the local library on a book that deals with this - there has to be something out there with pictures, etc. so it can help him understand without being scary. I wish you all the best!



answers from Richmond on

sit down with the little one, and explain to him that you are sick and that your hair will probably fall out, its nothing that he did, and you are going to be doing everything to try to get better, hold him a little closer, and let him know that he is a beautiful little guy, sorry, handsome little guy. ask him does he have any questions, and try to frame all your answers simply and slowly. spend as much time with him as you can, and while you are taking treatments, have a trusted friend take him out and spend some extra quality time with him, cuddle with him because this is hard on him too
K. h.



answers from New York on

I know that this is an old post. I just wanted to say God Bless you. You will get through this with faith and love. You will be stronger for it. Praying for you...xox



answers from New York on

This is a great organization that can help during your whole treatment. They are wonderful supports for the entire family.


answers from Tucson on

My mom had breast cancer when i was 14 and my brother was 10. I know we werent as young as your little one. I am so sorry for what you and your family are going through. Hang in there and be strong for him. I would simply tell him you are sick and will have to go to hospital a lot. I wouldnt let him brush your hair out like someone said. How scary for both of you! My mom simply had her head shaved and wore a hat or a wig. Just let him know before hand that you are not going to have hair for a while but it will grow out after a while. I never saw my mom without hair because she kept her head covered and was worried about it. Good luck and i pray for a speedy recovery for you.



answers from New York on

Very simple in terms he understands. He will ask questions. Only answer
his question. Do not give him more information than he asks for. I hope
that your chemo goes as well as my friends have gone. It certainly has
come a long way. I will keep you in my prayers. God bless you and your



answers from Amarillo on

Basically in terms that he can understand that mommy is sick but will get better. Let him know that you are takcing a medicine that will make your hair come out but it will grow back (mommy will wear funny hats or scarves). Once you have completed the chemo get a book about going to the hospital for surgery. Do it a little at a time because it is too much to grasp for an adult. When it comes to the radiation treatments your taste buds will be off and sometimes you won't want to eat what he might like and/or you will be tired. That too will get better. He might like this part because he will get to eat ice cream, butter, nuts and things to help you with the radiation treatments.

Most of all keep a positive attitude about everything. Don't overload your son with everything because is too much. My adult children daughter especially was lost with what I had to do but she is proud of what I did and that I am still here to be her best friend,

Just hug and love everybody in your family more. Your priorities will change as will you as you go through your journey. Welcome to the new sisterhood of survivors.

The other S.



answers from Rochester on

My son was 2 when I found out I had Breast Cancer so he was really too young to explain anything to him. I made life as normal as possible for the whole family. I had my husband shave my head with our son helping. He thought it was so much fun that he wanted his hair like Mommy's. We bought same color bandanas(hope I spelled that right) and wore them. I think the word "cancer" scares everyone not just kids. I admitt I was scared but I kept a "positive" attitude. You will have good days and you will have bad days but you need to stay postive and I feel that will help him to know you are going to be ok.
I wish you all the best because I KNOW you will be ok. Sometimes it helps if you write things down of what you are going through and a year from now you can look back at what you went thru and realize how much stronger of a person you have become. I tell people that I am so much stronger that I wear my cape under my clothes. :-)
A saying that really did help me at times was "God does not give you more than you can handle" You go girl and show cancer you will NOT give up and that you are more powerful then "it"

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