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The Hardest Part: How I Told My Kids About My Metastatic Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Written by Kelly Crumrin
Posted on March 5, 2024

Meet Nina Melad | Meet Becky Caroll | Return Home

Telling family about a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis is a painful step that can be hard to face. MyBCTeam member Nina spoke with us about how she told her family about her metastatic breast cancer when she was first diagnosed, 10 years ago. “Telling family and friends was the hardest part,” she told us. “At first, I didn’t want anybody to know, because I had to let it sink in that I have breast cancer. It was a really hard conversation when I had to tell our kids.”

Nina has been married to her husband, Stan, for 26 years. Her son, Matthew, is 23 and recently graduated from college. Her daughter, Sabrina, is 19 and currently studying abroad in Japan. She also has a fur baby, a Dandie Dinmont terrier named Emmitt.


I Like To Tell My Kids the Truth

Stan’s mother — “Mama,” to her grandchildren — had died of breast cancer when the children were younger, so news of Nina’s diagnosis brought up vivid fears for the whole family.

“My son was in seventh grade, and my daughter was just in fourth grade,” Nina explained. “And my son was 4 1/2 years old when his grandma passed away from breast cancer. He was there when she passed away.”


We told them, ‘We caught it early. We’re getting the best doctors. And we’re going to pray.’”
Nina

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With this in mind, Nina approached the topic frankly but with as much reassurance as she could: “We sat down after dinner. I like to tell my kids the truth. They had mixed reactions. My son went silent. He didn’t ask any questions at first. My daughter, she cried. Then my son asked me, ‘How is your breast cancer different from Mama’s?’ I told them that the difference with Mama is that she didn’t do anything about it. She just prayed and kept it to herself — and her tumor was the size of a grapefruit.

“We told them, ‘We caught it early. We’re getting the best doctors. And we’re going to pray.’ We had heart-to-heart talks. And after that, it eased their minds.”

Matthew chimed in during the interview to share his thoughts about this difficult period. “My mom told me that she’s going to fight and do whatever it takes to beat it,” he recalled. “That comforted me a lot. That helped me the most.”

Mom Needs a Little TLC

Nina explained that her children were empowered by doing things to support her.

“When I was diagnosed, my kids really helped,” she said. “To them, Mom’s sick and she needs a little TLC. My daughter decided, ‘I’m going to make my own lunch.’ My son bought lunch. They started to help me out with cleaning up their rooms a little bit better and putting their clothes away — little things like that. I know it made them feel good to help me out.”


“It was a rough time,” Matthew added. “They tried to protect me and not to put fear into me. I tried to help my mom and just do whatever my parents would say. I tried not to think about it as much as I could, even though the times I did, it would tear me up.”

Asked what he would tell kids with a parent who’d been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, Matthew said, “I would advise kids to try to do the best they can with what their parents tell them to do. They need you to just try to be there to comfort them as much as you can.”

Let Them Tell You When They’re Ready

Nina also had some advice for people who have a recently diagnosed relative or friend: “My advice to any family or friends finding out someone they know was diagnosed with breast cancer is basically to back off. Don’t inundate them with phone calls saying that you’re praying for them and ‘sorry to hear that’ — because that's not what I wanted to hear. Let them tell you when they’re ready.”

She also urged women living with breast cancer to stay positive and find things to look forward to. “Don’t let the diagnosis of having metastatic breast cancer overwhelm you,” advised Nina. “Take it one step at a time. Trust your doctors, enjoy life, enjoy your family. I’m 10 years in and still going. My husband and I love to travel. We’ve been all over Italy, we've been to the Holy Land, we’ve been to Paris, and next month, we’re going to Japan to visit our daughter.”

Read about new treatments that are extending life for metastatic breast cancer.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyBCTeam is the social network for people with breast cancer and their loved ones. On MyBCTeam, more than 68,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with breast cancer.

Have you or a family member been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer? How did you discuss the diagnosis with your loved ones? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Posted on March 5, 2024
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Kelly Crumrin is a senior editor at MyHealthTeam and leads the creation of content that educates and empowers people with chronic illnesses. Learn more about her here.

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