'Are You OK?' Isn't an Easy Question

The other day I told a lie. Actually, I did it twice. I was getting together with some friends and the young son of one of them came up to me and said, "My dad says you have a blog, and it's because you have cancer." I answered that he was right on both of those.

I was pretty impressed that he said that to me, he was clearly used to talking to grown-ups. But then he turned back into a kid.

"But you're all right now, right?" he asked. And without hesitation, I said "yes." What else was I going to say? I wasn't going to explain about my tumors and what they're doing to my body. I couldn't talk about what all that meant long term. And I certainly wasn't going to start throwing around terms like "metastasize" and "prognosis."

Then he asked me again, this time with a little more urgency, with the concern that children can show in a way that breaks your heart, "But you're OK now, right?" I think I said, "Yes, for now.?" I'm not sure why I added the "for now," that seems sort of unnecessary, looking back. But that seemed to satisfy him.

I have no qualms about answering that way. I don't think any good would have come from the unvarnished truth. I actually save that for just a handful of people in my life. Why upset him? There will be plenty of time for him to learn about life, to learn that it contains sorrow as well as joy, to learn that bad things do happen to people. All that lies ahead of him. I wasn't going to be the person to start that part of his education. Life will take care of that.

For that moment at least, he was pretty sure that all was right in the world. And those moments are precious in anyone's life.

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Hmmmm,

I think, you second response, "Yes for now," was better. Perhaps your young friend sensed the fudge in the initial. He may have heard a conversation or know of someone else with the cancer. Kids are remarkable creatures, at times very intuitive, they just need information so they can process it and file it for future. They also understand much more then we as adults give them credit for.

I don't think or feel you lied, right now you are fine. Keep being fine, Leroy.

Sent by Susan Chap | 7:27 AM | 7-26-2007

I never know what to say when people ask me that either but agree with your choice to answer a child in that way. They don't have to see or understand it yet. Children should enjoy their childhood. Mine lost their father early on and thus a part of their innosence. Kudos to you for making a wise and thoughtful decision in answering what may seem to some to be a simple question but alas it is not.

Sent by Vicki (FL) | 8:18 AM | 7-26-2007

But we are alright "now". I for one know I won't be forlong but for now I am and that is what most of the world needs to know. I don't want to be written off yet, not by a child, not by an employer, not by anyone. I have a support team that knows the truth and we talk about it but most of my day I want to be alright.

However, I would like really good tickets to the US Open because I know it will probably be the only grand slam I'll ever get to see but because I'm alright I'll be in the nosebleed section.

Sent by Dona | 8:24 AM | 7-26-2007

I cannot tell you how I have enjoyed (???) your blogs. I came to know about your blog through "Cacner Diva" who writes a blog for the Houston Chronicle in Houston, TX and she mentioned your blog and I have been reading it ever since. I have frowarded MANY of your blog entries to people because I find your words are so very eye opening...sorry I am having issues finding the right words here...they are just very moving and they really help someone like me who for the moment does not have any major issues of any kind (health, personal, professional, etc.) and I personally need to know what all I need to be thankful for and I need to realize ALL that I am taking for granted, because tomorrow, it could all be gone. And I think that your writing about your experience has helped me with that and I just want to thank you for that and I hope you know what you are doing for other people by writing about what you are going through. My mom succomed to ovarian cancer in January of 2003 and her sister has just been diagnosed with colon cancer. That has all been quite the eye opener and you have added to that "opening" with your writings. Thank you again so very much.

Misty Nelson
Dallas, Texas

Sent by Misty Nelson | 8:31 AM | 7-26-2007

Leroy, I think you are "all right", because you were enjoying a time with friends, which is good for you, and you knew it was right to spare a young boy from too much information. Let his parents reveal what they think he could handle if he inquires more. Thank you for sharing all your insites. It's good therapy for you and for all your "bleaders" (blog reader slang).

Sent by Marjorie | 8:35 AM | 7-26-2007

This blog reminds me of when i met up with my grandmother recently, not wearing my wig, and my eyebrows had come out for the most part. She is in an assisted living home and sometimes my family and I take her out to lunch, we hadnt told her of my caner only due to her short term memory loss because of her altzeimers. we knew it would only upset her and she'd forget it soon after. At lunch one day she noticed something was off, she is very aware of peoples appearances, she never leaves the house without her lipstick on. She is a Georgia peach and has had lots of personal rules about public appearance.
so, she noticed my eyebrows and asked why they were not there, i used to have brooke sheilds type eyebrows, hard to miss. I told her that the medicine i'm currently taking made my hair and eyebrows come out but that they would be
back again soon. she seemed ok with it and didnt ask anymore questions.
part of me really wanted to tell her all of what was going on, i wanted my grandmother to be there for me, but its not what she needed and it wouldnt be helpful. she lives in her world and sometimes ventures into ours, so its nice to not have her too upset if we can help it. thanks for your blog today Leroy

jenn from Maine

Sent by Jenn | 8:41 AM | 7-26-2007

Those moments are so very precious indeed. You're a good man Charlie Brown.

Hugs,

Lori

Sent by Lori Levin | 8:42 AM | 7-26-2007

I'm pretty sure I would have answered your friend's son the same way and for some of the same reasons you cited. Where it becomes more complicated is when your own children ask similar questions. I have now read books on how different age kids deal with and even view death. I have tried to take those learning???s and apply them to my own early teenage child. For the most part, she sees me as mostly normal and doing the things that a parent should be doing. Chauffeuring her and her friends, help with home work, and guidance on dilemmas, etc. We have shielded her from some of the more serious operations and chemo treatments by sending her to camp or relative houses for weeks at a time. But she has seen me with a tracheotomy, various catheters, my surgical scars, laying in bed for weeks at a time, and not working. So, she knows something is up and it???s not good. We've also had 2 or 3 brief (less than 10 minutes) and very direct discussions on my health and prognosis. I don't know if this was good or bad for her, but I think on balance, it was good. It takes some of the unknowns away. She is one of the reasons I have agreed on aggressive treatment, even at the cost of permanent disabilities and some chronic pain. I want to help her grow up. And, maybe selfishly, I want to be there for her successes and milestones. We do a lot for our kids, this is just one more thing. I have a some short term goals, but watching her grow up is one of my few long term goals. Overcoming my disabilities is another goal to deal with at another time.

The point here is that our kids have a great influence over our actions and honesty with those kids that are close to us is important.

I read you daily and appreciate your writings. Thank you for your time and effort. I have pointed many others to your site.

Ed
www.hncancer.blogspot.com

Sent by Ed Steger | 8:43 AM | 7-26-2007

Hi Leroy and all,

I too find myself reassuring people that I'm ok. I have even heard myself saying enthusiastically to people, "No, it really is ok, in fact, I'm going to be just fine, I really am." Am I lying to them or to me?

Last night at 1:30 AM as I laid in bed wondering about the on-going, nagging pain in my left lower back, I was afraid that I wasn't going to be ok.

Do I wait for two weeks until my next doctor's appointment, or do I listen to my husband and call today? Does two weeks matter? Of course it does.

I'm tired and scared and not thinking straight. It's only been two weeks since I finished radiation on my hip metastasis. Can I start that process again so soon? Ugh. I need to start taking sleep aids again, that's for sure.

We had a wonderful trip last week to New Jersey visiting my family. It was so nurturing and filled with love and joy. Relatives came from all over the east coast to see me. I don't want it to be the last time I laugh and share memories with them.

Ok, enough of this feeling sorry for myself. It is just beautiful outside this morning and I'm going to be a positive part of this day, tired or not. Thanks for listening.

Sent by Laurel M. Jones | 9:00 AM | 7-26-2007

morning leroy---greetings from india---those moments are precious in life... i hope you are well... krupali

Sent by Krupali Tejura MD | 9:05 AM | 7-26-2007

"Yes, for now" was a wonderful and appropriate answer, and honest without being disproportionate to the person you were engaged with. Thank you for such a good example. I may borrow your line when I need it!

Sent by Sarah | 9:05 AM | 7-26-2007

My 27 year old daughter, 19 year old son, 12 year old daughter and 9 year old son rarely ask me about the cancer. But when they do, I answer them just as you did. Mostly, I add the "for now" you added because I feel a bit like a liar when I don't. And I don't know which is less comfortable for me--being a liar or talking with my kids (or any kids!) about *my* cancer.

You did good.

Wendy

Sent by Wendy Murphey | 9:20 AM | 7-26-2007

There are many different ways of being okay -- physical, emotional, physical. "I'm okay and I'm really enjoying myself." and remember...if the questions got too hard -- I was one of those children who would have persisted -- "I don't know what will happen, but I'm okay right now," is an excellent and satisfying response.

Sent by Elaine Barnes | 9:26 AM | 7-26-2007

I agree with the way you answered the child. My 7 year old nephew is a smart guy. I thought for sure when I showed him my bald head and told him it was medication that did it he would have all sorts of questions. He said ok, can I borrow your wig to play rock star and we were back to our normal life. Of course, I think he is brilliant but regardless, he got the information he needed and didn't want to ask anything else. Kids know what they need to know.

Sent by lisa | 9:29 AM | 7-26-2007

You always seem to speak about what is on my mind. This same dilema is facing me now. There is a get-together planned with a group of women friends I have known for many years. Two stayed in touch during my treatment, and two disappeared. When the inevitable question arises, "How are you?" my answer will be the same - fine, for now...

Lesa

Sent by Lesa | 9:32 AM | 7-26-2007

I agree for some kids...*for now* is a perfect thing to say.
I was talking to my kids all of which are in their twenty's now. They were 11,13 and 15. I remember the youngest asking just that question. My reply was always *yes for now.*
The thing for me was telling them as much honest info as I could for the age.
Was the right way to go.
Our kids that are around us figure it out and honesty well to me it was the most important.
Now I am so glad we did it the way we did. They know they can come back and ask me anything about it.
I rally appreciate this blog Leroy, it makes me know at times I am doing the right things and feel some of the same feeling as others do
Hope

Sent by Kerry | 9:34 AM | 7-26-2007

Leroy-I really thing that wasn't a lie. At that particular moment in time you were "all right", maybe sentimental, but still all right. At any rate, your response to your son seemed to be the best response you could make at that time.

Sent by Fern Malowitz | 9:39 AM | 7-26-2007

Leroy,

I believe that when kids ask questions like that one, you give the minimum truth back. They may not even WANT the whole enchilada. If they want more, they'll ask. You did good, buddy!

Sent by Diana Kitch | 9:49 AM | 7-26-2007

Okay for now....that seems to be the same reaction I received recently from my co-worker. His wife has been fighting several tumors a few years now. Last year, she had a stroke. Her body was too weak to continue with the treatments, so they were waiting until she could gain some strength back to start again. Last week they had another scan to check to see where they needed to begin. Comes to find out, they missed the 'window' while gaining her strength. They were left with the words, "I'm sorry, there is nothing else we can do." I am heart broken as I watch this man who towers above everyone in my office walk around with this knowledge. This man who has devoted his life of 30 something years to his wife and children. This man, who possibly by the end of this year, will have to learn how to 'start over'. But for now he is cherishing the time with his wife and children. For now, he is living each day with them, not worrying too much about what lies ahead. Because for now, is all he has with her. And for now, that will have to do.

Sent by cynthia massey | 10:11 AM | 7-26-2007

Of course your second comment,"for now," was the best answer for this child. He asked you twice because his parents had already either told him or he'd overheard them discussing your terminal prognosis.

Most children are not stupid and they pick up on much more than they're given credit for.

I've learned this over 35 years of teaching young children while rearing 6 of my own.

Whenever I'm asked I say the same thing. I'm fine for now. If asked by a child I always add not to worry as they can't catch cancer from me.

Now, the wait for the next scan report...

Sue

Sent by Sue | 10:14 AM | 7-26-2007

Hi Leroy, all...

I think you did the right thing under the circumstances.

I just recently went for scans and my doctor said the tumors stopped shrinking, and in about 4 months, there was a clinical trial that sounded promising. That's what I told everyone else. But he also said, the tumors grew a little bit. I left that part out. Why worry my mom, brothers, sister and friends with that little part of it. They were all left with a positive thought that I may still beat the beast. And as long as they're not worried about me, that's one less thing I will worry about.

Carpe' Diem!

Sent by NY | 10:17 AM | 7-26-2007

Your answer was the right one. I find that telling the truth sometimes upsets people. Then I'm tring to make them feel better about it. When I'm asked, my answer is usually, I feel find today. I think that makes them more comfortable.

Sent by David White | 10:28 AM | 7-26-2007

people always ask me too how I feel and I always say this is my new "normal". Don't have to go into details just smile and move on to the next topic. Very few people like to hear all the details about and illness they cannot control or do not relate to so I know not to go there.

Love to read you every morning because only someone who has dealt with this disease can understand the pain inside, and because we don't have a broken foot or anything on the outside where people can see they assume we are ok, but not so. Hope everything goes weel for you keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.

Sent by Kathy Simmons | 10:29 AM | 7-26-2007

I think that your comment "for now" was perfectly fine. I do not know myself how long I have, I could have beaten this illness or I could have weeks to live. It is one of the horrible uncertainties of cancer.

Wishing you all the best,

Aoife

Sent by Aoife - Ireland | 10:33 AM | 7-26-2007

Leroy, There are mnay days, I wish, I did not know , what I know. I wish ,I were that kid again, playing baseball with my brother, it is summer you know. But, so much has changed, so much lost to this disease. that kid does not have, a need to know, not now. Let him have his fantasy, if only, for a little longer. I am certain many or all of us wishes it were so for us. Good work. Stan

Sent by Stan Wozniak | 10:51 AM | 7-26-2007

Leroy, what I love about your writing and the coversations that we have is that issues of real import get time and attention, and are looked at from many sides. I don't have any small children in my life, but I have had some brief conversations with my nephews and my niece. We're not a family that typically deals easily with emotion, but I have learned to over the years, and have endevered to keep my conversations with them honest, low key, and have given them the option to tell me how they feel. My nephews' other aunt has had colon cancer, so I had a short conversation with the oldest boy, now to be a junior in college, about his need to take good care of himself, and to be aware of his likely higher risk of some kinds of cancer, and that he needs to have discussions with his doctor about how to deal with that in the future. Forewarned is forarmed.

Sent by Nancy K. Clark | 10:53 AM | 7-26-2007

You were absolutely right in both your answers. You may have felt they were not honest answers, but in a way, they were. Honest answers from your heart.

Sent by Lyn Banghart | 11:13 AM | 7-26-2007

Dear Leroy/All,

I know people are concerned and ask out of kindness, but there are many times when I just would rather not discuss my husband's illness and go into detail; it hurts too much.

I have found a new answer that works well. When I am asked how my husband is doing I reply very politely " The same.....no better, no worse" and then I thank them for asking and immediately inquire as to how they are doing an if their families are all well.

I find this a very comfortable approach . Always in my prayers. Sasha

Sent by sasha | 11:27 AM | 7-26-2007

Leroy,
Great answer. I have 3 children they were 9,12 ,14 at my stage 4 diagnosis for colon cancer.You were truthful and since we dont know when things will happen why burden them early.
Everyone wanted me to put my children in counseling just assuming I was dying. I refused they wanted to be as normal as all there friends. I have been need for 23 months. They have meet some of my cancer friends who have died and have grown up alot but had I told them my odds they would have had to have the whole burden all us cancer patients live with everyday and their child hood would have been over.
Im not against counseling but I am the best judge for my kids and I hope that I would know when the battle is lost and I need to prepare them.

Sent by anita , seattle wash | 11:35 AM | 7-26-2007

Leroy,

How beautiful... Thanks for sharing

Sent by Missy | 11:57 AM | 7-26-2007

Children are so honest and straight talkers. My grandsons were visiting with their mother and they had all gone to bed. I asked my daughter-in-law if she wanted to see how my daughter clipped my hair (it was at the stage of half long and half short before she cut it and it had looked terrible). So I took my wig off and were laughing at how my daughter so enjoyed trimming my hair, when my little 4 year old grandson came around the corner. He looked at my head; looked at the wig; looked back at my head and asked with his big brown eyes staring at me "Grandma can you take your hair off". I explained to him that I had been sick and the medicine made my lose my hair and I was using this wig until I got it back. He seemed satisfied and went back to bed. A few moments later he popped out of bed and stood at the doorway and said "Grandma put your hair back on; you look weird". Then he went back to bed. Well it gave me a good laugh which is so precious during this struggle. Children boldly ask the questions and tell it like it is.

You did great Leroy. "I'm all right for now" is a perfectly good answer and that is only what we can honestly say.

Sent by Jackie | 12:02 PM | 7-26-2007

Thank you so much for all of the blog but today was exceptional.

Sent by Suzan Christensen | 12:27 PM | 7-26-2007

"Yes, for now..." was the perfect response. I've used it and it's honest and sufficient most of the time.

Laurel - I didn't know this until after I'd had radiation that it can weaken the bones around the radiated area. So it's a very real possibility that your hip pain was from the radiation itself. I worried about further mets for a long time and could have been spared that stress and anxiety if I'd been told. But do let us know what you find out.

Also, I've been wanting to comment on those certain people in each of our lives who seem to zone out or disappear when they hear about our cancer dx or return. I took it so personal when it happened to me but after reading this blog as well as a blog done by Lynne Dahlborg, (who just recently died) I've come to realize that it's normal and I can be ok with their inability to deal with my illness. Lynne's blog is: http://dahlborg.blogspot.com/

It's beautifully done - start back at the beginning and read her journey if you have the time. It's so encouraging and positive.

Love and blessings to each of you today!

Sent by Vicky (NY) | 12:29 PM | 7-26-2007

I find I have the same quandary whether I am being asked by a 6-year old or a 60-year old. "How are you now?" Do you have 30 minutes? I have no idea. I feel fine right now. They generally don't want to hear the long version. Like you mentioned, it is for a select few.

Sent by Alycia Keating | 12:38 PM | 7-26-2007

kids are truly the best!! here's my contribution to the list of kid stories..
as i sat in front of my class of ballet students (this group of darling 8-9-10 yr olds) Bridget asked me if i was going to be their ballet teacher next fall and i replied that i was planning on being their ballet teacher to which she said "well what about the you know, cancer thing!" i then told her i was now an official cancer survivor and right now i was not planning on going anywhere but here..then ayleesa, a very quiet shy 9 yr old slowly raised her hand and stated.."my uncle is a 3 time cancer survivor too"...the flood gates then open up for hte rest of the girls to give their "knowledge" of what cancer can and cannot do...most of those children all know of someone, child,adult,relative that has,had,or died from this nasty beast. telling our children the truths is the ONLY way to go.

Sent by marianne dalton | 1:20 PM | 7-26-2007

Hey Leroy,

Always good to read your blog. I, too, limit the actual comments or feelings. To the friends around me, I didn't and don't tell them alot to worry them; and quite honestly, when the doctors ask I usually just say fine because of the impenetrable glaze over their eyes. They have too large a caseload and are too overburdened to listen to the internal effects still lingering. As long as I look good on the exterior, that is all that matters.

I do love the honesty in children. I found that honesty and candor to be more prevalent with other cancer patients and survivors and their caretakers. They just cut to the chase and ask. I have no problem talking about it. The more it is discussed, the less stigma and fear there is about it. I always feel I need to preface each conversation by stating that cancer is not contagious. I also agree that you have to pick and choose with whom you are forthright about it.

Stay safe, stay strong,
Lance

Sent by Lance Carlson | 1:28 PM | 7-26-2007

Leroy,
My neice, at age four recently did something like this.. She said "I miss you Aunt Chanda". I had asked her what she meant because I had seen her everyday just like always, but somewhere deep in her mind she relizes that there is something off... something different with her Aunt.
I commend you on how you handled the situation because for me I know that somedays I just want to scream. "NO.. I am NOT okay.." Wouldn't it be ever so easy to let the truth leak out to everyone? Yet, there's a part of me that wants to protect the one's that I love from the truth of this disease and so I do.
Because even on my worst days... when I feel like I can't move or think I still say "I'm okay" because somewhere in me I am because I know that eventually I'll get through this in a sense... whether it be a cure or death itself. I *will* get through it.
Thank you for another great blog it really hit me today.

Sent by Chanda | 1:42 PM | 7-26-2007

Yes, the right answer is 'for now'. We are okay for now..
When my children (ages 13-24) ask me about my cancer, my answer differs for each of them. I have always been very straightforward in answering their questions, but am careful not to give more information than they've asked for. I always follow my answer with, did that answer your question? Do you want more information? I remember asking my dad about sex when I was younger and him giving me a very long answer which I did not listen to- and at the end of his 'speech' realizing that he was telling me important stuff. But, clearly, he was giving me too much information that I was not ready for and his answer was lost on me.
When my kids ask me how much longer I'll be on chemotherapy (it's been 13 months), I say as long as it's working. Unless they ask for more information, I don't mention metastatic disease or prognosis. Why give them more to worry about before they're ready to worry? My two older children have asked for more information and I answered them fully and directed them to websites and google key words and reminders that they can always ask me more and I will always answer them.
In the same respect, though, when things are not all right..I will tell them. They need to know, understand and prepare for what is happening- for now though, everyhing is good.

Sent by elm | 1:52 PM | 7-26-2007

Dear Leroy,

I have learned, also, there are those with whom I can be perfectly honest because they are sincerely interested, and there are those who, if you actually came out and told them the truth of what is and has happened in your life, you can kiss the "pleasure of their company" good-bye because truthfully, they have no desire to hear your truth. I think it is because it makes them fear their own mortality, or they are not capable of dealing with emotion, and I have learned to be very selective.

I know who I can talk with and bear my soul, and there are those who are only concerned with the superficial, not my spirit or my emotional well-being, and there was a time I took some of those reactions personally, but it is NOT ABOUT ME it is all about THEIR FEAR! So now, I use my intuition to know who is really interested and concerned, and who is just making an attempt to be polite, but patronizing. I try my best to keep the categories seperate for selfish reasons, I suppose, I have hurt people and been hurt enough to know I have precious little time for adding to my pain these days.

I was amused by Jenn's blog today because I, too, am the epitome of one who was raised by a true Southern Belle, I learned to be a lady in the most public of places because of my family's role in the community and the requirement of what was appropriate for "public display" and well trained to give the outward appearance of "All is well in Wonderland, Thank You!", and became very good at refining this over the years. There were those days when I would not dream of going out in public, or even being in my home, without the proper make-up and well put-together appearance, and I did this for two reasons - self-esteem and the values with which I was raised, and vanity. After my mastectomy, my wake up call was the first day I went out in public, it was unseasonably hot, and I could no longer hide my personal defects with heavy sweaters or cover-ups, and I felt as if I would be judged based upon my appearance and I cried for a long time while standing in my closet looking for something I could wear that would not be revealing of my fate, but also appropriate for the weather. Upon arriving at my destination, I learned a very valuable lesson and thankfuly, I was seeing people who were very kind and understanding and not so interested in the trappings of the "appearance of being OK", but only interested in what my insides were revealing. I have learned there are friends and there are acquaintances, and never the 'twain shall meet. I truly value those who care enough to want to hear the truth, but then there is the part of me, for the good of everyone's sake, I shall continue to do all I can to make the proper appearances and be the best I can on the outside, because it does so much to help me to accept the peron I am inside, without the trappings of decoration. I have learned I am not a bad person to be around and I truly love comraderie and companionship, I crave the fellowship I miss so much now because most of my "friends" have fallen away, but I have also learned to appreciate the value of the gift of a friend who accepts me even when I let my hair down, or when I take it off!!! That is a gift!

Children say the darndest things, and for a person who has never had children of her own, I have learned they are really just big people in little bodies, and I try to respect that and not talk down to them as if they did not understand. If they did not want to know they would not have asked twice, nonetheless, but there are some details they are just not equipped to handle yet and I sincerely hope and pray I can continue to intuitively know who is ready to hear the truth and who is not. I never want to be remembered as a selfish person who was only concerned with my own feelings, but as someone who left others, regardless of their age or size, feeling better than they did before we met for that brief time, and leave it at that.

Love, Briana

Sent by briana | 2:37 PM | 7-26-2007

Dear Leroy
Quality or quantity? Soon we will have to decide between continuing on chemo or going off it. Now that you have had time to think about it, did you do the right thing when you chose to stop having chemo? Would it have kept your tumours in check?

I am only the caregiver but I want my partner to stay on chemo, which he has been receiving for the last 20 months.
He is tired of it and may not be able to endure much more.

Knowing what you know now, do you wish you had selected quantity over quality?

Sent by Jacqueline Roose | 2:57 PM | 7-26-2007

Dear Leroy and All,

My mother is right in the middle of her third fight with colon cancer, with mets to lungs. Small tumors this time, always hoping and praying they'll be gone for good with this round, but who knows? Obviously, this is genetic, as I think yours is Leroy, and I fear one day I'll be in the same boat. This is been a HUGE mortality wake-up for me as well. I worry, not only about her, but already about what my children and husband would do without me, and it has really changed my priorities in life. However, when I really start worrying, I realize there is absolutely nothing I can do except spoil THIS precious day by worrying. If colon cancer doesn't get me, I could be hit by a car at the mailbox, or trip and hit my head on a brick (I am notoriously clumsy). My crazy brother always says he wants to go "in the tines of a combine" like Frank Drebbon (sp?) on that stupid Police Squad movie. Any one of us is just one physical, mammogram or scan away from a dreaded diagnosis of some kind. I know my fear has no comparison to someone who has actually heard those words, "You have Cancer", but really, life is such a slender thread. All of us are only "ok, for now", for the breath we just inhaled and exhaled. I'm trying to come to grips with that, and make each moment precious and special, to tell everyone I love them, and do NOW the things I've always wanted to do, within reason, of course. And by the way, my mother, although she has her down days and quiet moments, always answers anyone when asked with a "I'm great". And she is.

Sent by Connie E. | 2:59 PM | 7-26-2007

Leroy and all,

Wonderful blog today! It shows how important truth and education are to everyone on every level. And the truth is that all we have is right now and if we are ok right now then we are truely blessed. So Leroy, your answer covered all the bases.

I do agree that we must help children to understand that they can't catch Cancer from us. When I was first diagnosed and my granddaughters were visiting with me, the 10 year old was strangely distant. She had always run and jumped into my arms before my illness. Now she stayed at arm's length until I realized how frightened she was of me. I called her over to me but didn't attempt to physically touch her. But as soon as I explained to her that there was no reason to be afraid and reassurred her that she could not catch Cancer from me, she rushed into my arms and it was the best hug ever!

And this morning I received some of the best news ever, a negative diagnostic mammogram report. It's been a good day
and I hope it was for all of us in Leroy's Army!! God Bless!!

Eileen Pruyne
Charlotte

Sent by Eileen Pruyne | 3:22 PM | 7-26-2007

Your answer for that child at that moment was fine. I work with 10-12 year olds every day (fifth grade teacher) and they became particularly alarmed when I disappeared for 6 weeks one year for what they knew was cancer surgery. We needed a class meeting and a little more information before they really believed I'd be back and whole again before the year was out. Things got even stickier with next year's class when I taught in the morning, but took afternoons "off" so I could have radiation treatments and rest up for the next day. This class was afraid my cancer had returned and was going to get me for sure this time. Again, it took a class meeting and some careful counseling to assure everyone (kidwise) that I had to be O.K. or I wouldn't be here! To my wonderful colleagues, who were so supportive, I was more to the point. When passing them in the hall with the standard,"How are you today?", I stopped for a minute and actually told them. The answer was usually, "Tired, a little nauseated and scared to death." There is no one standard answer that fits all times and ages, but in your case, in this situation, that's exactly what I would have said.

Sent by Tim | 3:35 PM | 7-26-2007

I often discover that most people want you to affirm their belief that you are fine, even those that know your cancer is not curable. It's just too scary for them to face the reality. I've had so many people tell me how good I look on days when I feel lousy that I am concerned about how bad I looked when I was healthy!
Doing OK (for now!)
Katy

Sent by Katy Gerritt | 3:40 PM | 7-26-2007

I think it is very difficult to explain the "truth" to a young child. My 6 year old son had liver cancer when he was 18 months and has been in remission for 4 1/2 years now. He still see the oncologist quarterly for check-ups. Recently, he has become very very worried about every bruise and bumps he has. He is often worried if the sore throat or stomach ache he has is caused by a tumor and often asked if he would know if he has a tumor. My husband and I tried our very best to answer his questions and tell him the truth. But he always ask "how do you know that for sure?" or "are you guessing or do you really know?" There are questions that we just cannot answer with certainty. Yes, kids do ask the darnest questions and my son's questions breaks my heart......

Sent by grace | 4:43 PM | 7-26-2007

Good answer Leroy! You are a dear sensitive man who considered his audience.
Years ago I worked with a woman whose life was a soap opera. One of my male colleagues came into my office one day and said "I asked (blank) how she was doing and she told me more than I wanted to know".
There is a lesson there for all of us.
Charlotte in Temecula

Sent by Charlotte Kewish | 6:38 PM | 7-26-2007

Darn, you are a good and sweet writer. Thank you. :-) Joyce

Sent by Joyce Smith | 7:29 PM | 7-26-2007

Hi Leroy,

From the first blog I read (Life isn't a Disney movie) what I have admired about you is your commitment to truth and reality in our lives. Told to us with a refreshingly wholesome emotional outlook...and now here you are with a beautifully appropriate sutle truth for a child. A precious moment for you, I agree. At the same time, what is precious are out moments with you.
I wish you well. _Jan

Sent by Jan DeBerry | 7:40 PM | 7-26-2007

That's how answer the "how are you doing?" questions too.
I'm O.K. today, or "pretty good, for now".
Because I don't know what the future holds and I don't want people to think Cancer just "goes away".
If my grand-daughters ask, I do say " I'm doing good" because I don't want to instill fear into their "childhood".
I often wish I could go back to that simpler time, when Mom could hug and kiss the fears away.

Sent by Brenda | 9:25 PM | 7-26-2007

Read your blog and all of the responses and all I can say is, "Way to go, Leroy. You did the right thing."

Take good care. I value your blog so much.

Betsey

Sent by Betsey Kuzia | 10:16 AM | 7-27-2007

I've been reading your blog for over a month now (read from the beginnng). I have stage IV metastatic renal cell cancer. I read your blogs and find an unexpected sense of comfort in the things I read. I think your blog for the 27th may help me figure out how to answer my students questions as I begin my treatment. Thanks.

Sent by Alicia | 11:16 PM | 7-29-2007

he concern that children can show in a way that breaks your heart, "But you're OK now, right?" I think I said, "Yes, for now.?" I'm not sure why I added the "for now," that seems sort of unnecessary, looking back. But that seemed to satisfy him.

Pefect answer .. Childrens reality is far shorter than ours, and you are ok for now .. the future you dont know what it will bring, but you did give that child peace of mind - believe me as a mother of a 4 year old .. it was the best answer you could have given :}

Sent by Jill Curtis | 11:53 PM | 7-29-2007

Gosh, just recently I have played the scenerio in my mind of what whould happent when I have to tell my twin 6 year olds and 7 year old that their mom has to go to Hospice?

I read once that children need hope. You gave this boy hope.

Sent by Janis | 11:28 PM | 7-30-2007

I want you, Leroy, to know what an amazing impact you and your ability to articulate so well what it is to struggle with cancer. A friend with stage 3 melanoma first told me about you. (I had breast cancer 3 years ago and have a good prognosis). Another friend is battling stage 4 colon cancer and I told her about your blog. We talked about it today, sisyphus and the procedures, whatever you blog about. If life is about reaching out to and touching lives, you have been an amazing muse...

Sent by Joan Mamelok | 2:43 AM | 8-9-2007

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