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Talking to Your Children About Cancer: A Patient's Perspective

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Published on April 24, 2014

Jeff Folloder, Patient Power host and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patient, joins us to share part of his personal cancer journey. Watch as Jeff describes his experience in telling his children about his CLL diagnosis.

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Transcript | Talking to Your Children About Cancer: A Patient's Perspective

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of MD Anderson Cancer Center, its medical staff or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Andrew Schorr:    

So, Jeff, you have daughters, do you?

Jeff:

Yeah, two daughters.

Andrew Schorr:      

Two daughters. So we have kids and grandkids. Did you tell them, and what did you tell them?

Jeff:

After I recovered from being hit by the baseball bat and having a nice heart-to-heart with my wife, we both decided that we needed to tell our children, who were teenagers at the time, that there’s cancer in the family.

And one of the things that I noticed—and it’s something that I’ve always kept in the back of my head throughout my volunteer work—my kids kind of, sort of, pulled back, and I really wasn’t expecting that and neither was my wife.

And I really didn’t understand what was going on until several days, maybe weeks, later when I kind of figured out, after having a conversation with them, I never mentioned whether my cancer was hereditary or not.

Kind of left that out of the discussion. And both of my girls were really, really worried that now they’re going to get it. Well, this guy over here had made sure that I knew that this wasn’t something that I did, it wasn’t from my love of single-malt scotch or the occasional cigar.

It had nothing to do with the exposure to fertilizer, or this, that or the other thing, and I didn’t get it from my family. It just happened. And I explained it just that way to my kids. And all of a sudden, they were my kids again.

Well, I’m working with some of my CanCare clients, and I hear this exact story from a woman that I was talking with who told me that her kids pulled away from her. They’re no longer helpful. They didn’t want to be with her. They didn’t help out with the laundry. They didn’t do this, that or the other thing.

And I said, well, have you had this particular conversation with them? And she reacted the exact same way that I did, no, I never even thought to have that conversation—instantaneous turnaround. So if you haven’t had the conversation with your kids, do it.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of MD Anderson Cancer Center, its medical staff or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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