What it’s like to get cancer as a parent: ‘I began planning out my next 5 years’

When Fiona Kingsley Boyer was six months pregnant, she started to notice bruising on her legs.

She was also very itchy, symptoms she thought were normal for someone carrying a child.

That February of 2018, the 32-year-old woman from Scarborough, Ont. says doctors noticed a lump on her neck.

She went to the ER to get an X-ray on a Sunday night and by Monday, she got the grim news: she had cancer.

“I was like, ‘What about the baby? Because all you think about is the baby… you don’t care about yourself.’”

Kingsley Boyer was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She was induced a month early before her due date and started chemotherapy two weeks after giving birth.

Fiona Kingsley Boyer pregnant. Photo courtesy of Fiona Kingsley Boyer. Art by Laura Whelan. 

Doctors told her the cancer wouldn’t impact her unborn child, but Kingsley Boyer panicked.

“For days I thought I had days to live,” she said. “I began planning out my next five years with my kids.”

Getting a cancer diagnosis is one hurdle to jump over on your own, but when you have kids, it can add another layer of guilt, fear and anxiety. Some parents are separated from their children during chemotherapy, while others have a hard time explaining the diagnosis to their child.

Telling your kids about the ‘C’ word

Erlanger A. Turner, a licenced psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at Pepperdine University in Los Angeles, tells Global News most parents struggle to tell their children about their diagnosis.

“It is important to be honest; most children will notice changes in their environment,” he explained.

“Be prepared to openly discuss your chronic illness but keep the conversations age-appropriate for your child.”

You can start with a conversation about what cancer is or offer reading material to older children.

“Having a cancer diagnosis also comes with some uncertainty,” he continued. “It is OK to talk with your child about what is involved in treatment. Finally, be prepared for your child to be anxious or worried about your health.”

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