Zane is a great kid, and so far he seems pretty smart. Smart enough that we thought we should at least tell him about my cancer. It was obvious that something was wrong, because his mother was crying. We had to tell him something. I don't believe in shielding kids from life, anyway. Hiding things from them prevents their minds from adapting to the situations that arise as a normal part of life. People get sick, and he needed to know that.
So I sat him down that day, intending to just tell him and then let him ask questions. I immediately started crying. In all fairness, that's pretty much what I did for the entire first week, but it is difficult to speak when you're crying. It is especially difficult to speak calmly when you're crying, because your nose is running and your eyes are red and your voice just starts getting all quavery.
"I'm sick." I was finally able to get out. Zane looked at me quizzically, his head cocked to one side.
"Why don't you go to the doctor?"
It struck me that this was a very practical thing for a kid to say, and I felt simultaneously proud and concerned at the same time. I explained that I had gone to the doctor, and this is what the doctor had told me. Zane wanted to know exactly what was wrong with me. Sitting in our brightly lit kitchen, the afternoon sun streaming through the windows, I was suddenly at a loss. How do I explain this? Larry tried.
"Your mom has a growth, about the size of a marble, that has to come out."
This did not compute with our son. He knew what a marble was, and the idea that such a thing would be inside his mother was just not possible. Marbles just did not grow inside people.
"Remember that episode of Teen Titans, where Starfire had a parasite growing out of her side, and it ate the Titans?" I remembered that we had watched the episode together, and hoped that he remembered it as well. He nodded.
"That is similar to what is happening to me right now." I looked at him. My son stared back at me with a very serious face, older than his years. I decided that I did not want to see that look on my son, and I silently prayed that I did not see it very often.
"Can it kill you?" He wanted to know.
"It might, but I'm going to do my best to make sure that it doesn't." I had to stop and blow my nose, and Zane chose that moment to be distracted by his computer. As if on cue, we all moved on to the other events of the day, because the world doesn't stop for things like cancer. The boy had to be at soccer practice in an hour, and that was that.
Keep up the routine as much as possible, keep moving forward, until we are past this obstacle.
I picked Zane up from school the next day, unsure of how his day had gone. He seemed in good spirits as we walked to the car, and I relaxed. Then he saw his cousin Tyler.
"Hey! My mom has a marble growing in her!" Zane shouted at him. Zane did not seem all that upset about the situation, and I was glad for that. It was as if he just trusted that my cancer would be handled, that it would all be taken care of, by somebody, somewhere. It would all be okay. I was a little humbled by that, even as I prayed that everything happened just that way.
My son and I have had conversations about my cancer several times since that day. Conversations that hardly vary in their content or duration:
Zane: "Do you still have that thing in you?"
Zane: "When are you going to get it out?"
Maybe I should have been more delicate about telling my son about my cancer, but I'm glad that he knows. There's a rough road ahead, and I may need him to hold my hand when I get scared.