Brooke Burke has always been one of my favorite celebrity moms. The Dancing With the Stars host is always down-to-earth and self-deprecating in the best way as she shares her parenting struggles online, and her Naked Mom biography is on my "must read" list for any mother. Now she's tackling the challenge of telling her kids about her battle with cancer with the same aplomb we've grown accustomed to getting over at the actress' blog.
Burke, of course, has thyroid cancer, caught early and already removed during surgery. But she's also a mom to four kids, and breaking the news of the big C was a big deal in her house.
Brooke blogged about how she had the cancer talk at Modern Mom this week, and one of the most striking moments came in her conversations with 12-year-old Neriah:
My 12-year-old overheard a conversation that I was having regarding my diagnosis so I had to tell her first. She was really scared and concerned. She cried, and her biggest fear was if I was going to be ok.
The fact that a 12-year-old would react differently to a younger child about cancer (Brooke's kids range from age 4 on up) isn't exactly surprising. Tweens and teens have spent years going through science classes at school and hearing about cancer on the news. They know all too well what the word means.
Therein lies the challenge in how you talk to a teenager about a cancer diagnosis. You can't use pat cliches or oversimplify with phrases like "Mommy's a little sick." They know what cancer is, and it isn't "a little sick" to them.
It's also hard to hide anything from kids that age. As the old saying goes, little pitchers have big ears. And when they know what the words they're hearing mean, you're stuck.
The way it went down in the Burke-Charvet household, though, is a good example of how to do it the right way:
She asked me to promise, promise, promise her that nothing would happen to me, which I did. It was a little bit difficult for me to make a promise regarding an issue I can't control, that's truly in someone else's hands. But I'm hopeful and optimistic, so I made her that promise to ease her mind. She has repeated that need for reassurance many days and I continue to tell her how much I love her and that I am right here. I also discuss the facts regarding suspicious thyroid nodules and the statistics of successful treatment.
Facts, facts, facts. That sounds about right. Don't lie to your teen! Just give 'em the facts!
It's scary to face up to something like this, but this just cements why I love Brooke -- she doesn't hide from her challenges as a mom, and she's willing to let the rest of us in on them ... so they can help us. God forbid I was in this situation, I would probably follow her lead.
What would you do in Brooke's situation? Would you tell the truth and put the facts out there or try to hide it?
Image via ABC