Budding Breasts and Guilt

I have young girls.  They had just turned 6 and 10 when I was diagnosed.  My 10-year old knew about breast cancer, although her understanding of breast cancer at that time was limited to pink ribbons and walks, and commercials she’d seen on TV which informed her that breast cancer kills X number of women every year.   My 6-year old had no clue.  We told her that Mommy’s boobies were sick and had to be taken away.  That was about the extent of what she could grasp at that time.  Fast forward a couple of years later and we all have such a different understanding and breadth of knowledge about this asshole disease.  For instance, one day my older daughter came to me, scared because she felt a lump in her breast.  She was 11.  Breast buds.  My baby was starting to grow breasts.  I feel such guilt about the fact that my babies now have a family history and increased risk of breast cancer.  And I feel horrible and guilty because I have tainted any excitement my daughter, now 12, may have about getting breasts.

My youngest, now 8, started processing the cancer experience shortly after I’d finished treatment and surgeries.  She began asking me questions at random times.  Did I still have cancer?  My boobies were sick, but I wasn’t, right?  Why did I get cancer?  Lately, she’s been telling me that she’s so glad that I didn’t die.  (Of course I don’t tell her that we can’t take for granted that it won’t come back and it’s a fear I feel every day of my life.)  She’s been asking more pointed questions lately such as, will she get cancer.  That is just excruciating.  At some point, I will have to tell them that they are at increased risk and need to start screening when they are 32, but that conversation doesn’t have to happen for a long time.

This weekend, the 8-year old and I were at the grocery store, walking down the laundry detergent aisle.  She pointed out to me a bra-washing-bag (a mesh, lingerie bag, but specifically for bras, apparently).  I jokingly said that I won’t ever be needing one of those, but her sister may be needing one soon because she’s starting to get her boobies.  She thought about that for a second and then asked me if her sister was going to have to have surgery when she gets her boobies.  I guess she’s still processing.  And I’m still feeling excruciatingly guilty.


6 thoughts on “Budding Breasts and Guilt

  1. hi there – my words may not make sense or be useful and I also understand why your daughters associate cancer with breasts; but cancer is/was not your fault. Cancer is just a part of our lives (unfortunately). Hoping your family will move above it soon, however hard that may be. all the best

    • Thank you. You are correct – cancer is just part of our lives. We do the best we can with what we’re given, and I think my family has done pretty well.

  2. I don’t have any children but I can imagine the difficulty of expressing your fears and reality to them. Eventually they will know and understand. I didn’t have awareness about breast cancer until I was in my 20’s — personally, I wish i had known sooner — about genetics, risks, family history, all of it. Your daughters will be more informed and they will take care of themselves.

    I am sorry you had to have these conversations with them but you are doing all you can as their mom to watch out for them.

    I hope there is a cure soon.

    • I didn’t know about anything breast cancer until I was diagnosed, although I don’t think it would have changed anything even if I had known. I try to be honest with them, but sometimes these conversations can be a challenge because you don’t want to lie, but you also don’t want to scare them. So, when they ask questions I try to respond very carefully. Thank you for your comment.

  3. Please, please, PLEASE my Love: do NOT feel guilty. This is NOT your fault. It is nothing you have wished for; nothing you did to bring this upon you and your children. I remember panicking when my breasts grew, and being taken to the doctors by my Mum, and my Mum hadn’t had breast cancer. When I got mine, I was 37. My children were 3 and 6. Their Daddy had died when they were 11 months and 3, so, sadly, they knew exactly what death meant. One of our friends had just died from breast cancer, two weeks or so before my diagnosis. So they knew what I had could kill. We told them that the treatment would make me very sick and grumpy and tired, and that I would lose all my hair. They watched me go through it, and asked all sorts of difficult questions. When I got the all clear, the first thing my little boy asked, was ‘can you get cancer twice?’ – It’s heartbreaking, but you need to be honest. Yes, I said, you can, but I know lots of people who have BEATEN it TWICE too! (True fact!) – Then, ironically, my Mum got breast cancer too. She, too, was one of the lucky ones who survived (and fingers firmly crossed for all of us, including you Hunni!). We’ve had our genetic testing done, and they don’t think there is a genetic link. Still, I have a sister, 7 years my junior, and a young daughter. But please Hunni. Do. NOT. Feel. GUILTY! Sending huge superbig hugs! xxxxxxx

    • Thanks for your sweet and thoughtful comment. You are correct – it is heartbreaking to navigate these things with our children (and by the sounds of it, you’ve had a LOT to navigate). I just hope that going through this together and always being honest with them will make us a stronger family in the end. Hugs back to you. xo

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