Preventive Mastectomy: Telling the Cowkids

Posted March 4, 2016 by Prairie Wife - 23 comments

As The Cowboy and I drove back from our meetings with my oncologist, and breast and plastic surgeons in Denver, we talked about what to tell the Cowkids.


The two oldest Cowkids are 9 and 7 (about to turn 10 and 8) and are just old enough to grasp a bit of what I’m doing but, certainly not old enough to truly understand it all. The three younger Cowkids will notice that Mommy is gone and unable to do much when I’m back but, only Cowboy W (who is 5) would probably truly benefit from a heads up.

We decided to hold a family meeting and talk to all the Cowkids at once. The Cowboy wanted me to avoid using the word Cancer at all costs; he felt that it would be too upsetting to the older kids. We waited a few days after we got back before we sat down to talk to them. The Cowkids needed a day or two to come down from the high of spending days being lovingly spoiled by CowGranny (they really didn’t want her to go lol) and I needed time to plan what I was going to say and make sure I was fully in control of my emotions.

We snuggled up with all 5 Cowkids in the upstairs living room and, after I took a deep breath, I started to explain.

I told them that I was going to have surgery on my chest to keep me from getting sick. I emphasized that I was not sick and that while I would have to lay low for a few weeks after each surgery, it would be better to be a little sore for a few weeks, than really sick for months. I talked about how lucky we are that I could have this surgery, and not have to worry about getting sick!

T rex mommyI could see the wheels turning in the older Cowkids’ heads…but because the Cowboy and I were neutral in our expressions they followed our vibe (phew). I told them that Daddy and other friends and family would be helping Mommy out around the house. I got up and showed them how I would have to keep my arms at my sides for a few weeks. I could see the older kids growing concern as the repercussions of this started to sink in. I immediately turned it into a joke. Stomping around and roaring around the room…I told them that I was going to be a T-Rex mommy (a flash of brilliance if I do say so myself). Giggles erupted and we moved on.

A few days later the topic was brought up by Cowboy C at the dinner table (he may just have turned three but that kid’s a thinker) he asked when my “boo boos” (what he calls my breasts) would be owie. I explained that we had a few more months to go (surgery is set for April 29th).

Cowgirl G teared up. I knew that she was feeling a bit powerless in all this so I gave her a hug and asked her to be my helper. She looked at me warily…I’m sure she had visions of changing LittleMissH’s diapers! I asked if she would be in charge of brushing and doing my hair. I explained that as T-Rex mommy I wouldn’t be able to do my hair and would love to have her be my personal hairstylist. This made her day, and she is now telling everyone how she gets to be my hairstylist after my surgeries.

Over the last month the Cowkids have made references to my upcoming surgery and things that I won’t be able to do as T-Rex Mommy. Cowgirl G left me speechless when she asked “What will LittleMissH and I need to do when we are grown up? Will we get sick or need surgery?” I simply explained that we didn’t need to worry a bit about it now, and scientists are getting smarter every year so we might not ever need to worry about it…while holding back my tears…

I know that overall they feel confident that not only will they be taken care of but, that I will be just fine. I hope that giving them this time to process what will be a challenging time for all of us will help them but…in the end…only time will tell.

What do you think, is honesty the best policy when sharing bad news with children?

Copyright: red33 / 123RF Stock Photo

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23 thoughts on "Preventive Mastectomy: Telling the Cowkids"

  1. sherry says:

    Hi PW!

    So glad to have found your page! (Thanks to Gayle and Edna!) In my opinion it is about age appropriate information and you did a fabulous job! As time goes on and they see how well you are doing it will be but a memory to them. Since we do not know what the future holds I don’t think that sharing the “could be’s and might be’s” is necessary and would create unnecessary worry. Love the T-Rex analogy! The Cowkids are lucky to have you and the Cowboy!

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      Welcome Sherry, I’m so happy you stopped by! I agree being honest is great but, keeping it age appropriate is vital too. Hope we see more of you 🙂

  2. Bennie says:

    I think you did a great job explaining it to your cow kids and handled it very well. I like the t-rex mommy reference – maybe a future t-shirt for you to sell for charity proceeds?? Hang in there, you will be fine and your family will survive and learn from this experience. It’s better to be proactive than not.

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      Thanks for your support Bennie! TallGirlJ DID get me a TRex shirt made I’ll have to put a pic of me wearing it up on FB!

  3. T Miller says:

    I’m sorry you feel you have to do this and hope you’ll reconsider. If you based your decision on the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation, the research doesn’t support it. I’m sure you looked into everything your doctor told you but please delve deeper beyond their recommendations. Of course, ultimately it’s up to you and I wish you the best.

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      Thanks so much for your concern and kind words 🙂

  4. College BFF says:

    Wow what a talk and what a thinker that cowgirl G is. Would have took me off guard with the last question. You are amazing!

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      It was a hard one for sure…and luckily what she asked was something I had already thought of…and truthfully worried about. After all we are skewing the statistics with me doing this surgery…

  5. Jenn B says:

    What a brave mommy! I definitely believe in age appropriate honesty in terms of the big life changes, even when it includes possibilities and how to deal with big emotions. It gives them the opportunities to think, wonder, question, and really learn to trust us.

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      Great point Jenn, it does teach them to trust us when we are honest with them about the hard stuff! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  6. Cindy says:

    What a great job. I’m a grandma and so enjoy reading y’all’s adventures. Though this one made me sad for you I know that with the zest for life you have all will be well. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Keep on writing and keep on looking to the future. May God be with you always

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      Cindy thanks so much for you prayers and thoughts, and your lovely comments. Truthfully sometimes I wonder if writing is helping others…reading your comment encourages me to keep it up 🙂

  7. veronica says:

    You and the Cowboy handled that perfect! I do believe honesty is the best way to go. I know it can be difficult to explain or more difficult for them to try to understand. ..but how can we expect honesty from them if we aren’t! Lots of prayers for the family during this time♡♡♡♡

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      Thanks Veronica 🙂

  8. Erica says:

    Made me cry

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      Awww in a good way I hope 🙂

  9. kendra says:

    Absolutely honesty is the best policy…in an age appropriate way you explained what is going to happen. This will help them process this and keep their trust in tact as well. Kids are super smart and they pick up things regardless of what we adults think… so honoring them the way you did is the best way to handle it. They are going to find out anyway.. this way they don’t feel blindsided. YOU are amazing Cathy! This of course can’t be easy but you are doing it the best way that it can be done.

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      Thanks for your your support and kind words Kendra <3

  10. Riley says:

    I think you did an amazing job PW. This is tough stuff and even tougher to explain to kids. Remember, I’m coming over to vacuum and do whatever you can’t with your T-Rex arms. 🙂

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      Thanks Riley, be careful what you offer I might just call you lol 😉

  11. Teresa says:

    Your kids are lucky you are brave enough to take control of your future and your health. They will see you as nothing but brave from here on out!!

    Remember that the doctor’s paint the worst picture of the recovery process. I was back to work in 2 weeks and back to working out in about 4. The expanders stink – worst part, but that made the exchange surgery such a relief. I was at a Christmas party the day after my exchange.

    Best of luck!!!

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      Thanks so much for the information, it helps to know the first surgery should be the hardest!

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