In the run-up to my husband's surgery in 2016, I was worried about telling my son that his dad has a brain tumour. But I knew in my heart that I wanted to be honest with him and let him in on what was happening. I felt that to shield him completely from the situation would not be fair to him in the long run and I didn't want to confuse him. I took advice from my incredibly caring health visitor and the lovely people at Maggie's and they convinced me that my instinct was right and very appropriate for the situation. So, a couple of days before my husband's surgery, we sat our nearly three and a half year old down and explained to him about the "bad cells in Daddy's head."
Our son has always been very bright, and we explained things on his level, but we didn't shy away from the terminology ("brain tumour," "surgery," "chemotherapy") because I wanted to be careful about not making any of it seem taboo. And you know what? Our little three year old did amazingly handling all the big ideas, thoughts and emotions that came with letting him in on the situation. It wasn't by any means easy, but we kept the conversation open and age appropriate, and I continually tried to find the right balance between addressing what he was seeing happening to his dad, and just letting him be a little boy with typical little boy day-to-day experiences. I didn't want the brain tumour to permeate every aspect of our life, but likewise, I didn't want to not address it when appropriate. I tried my very best not to over-think things and let things progress naturally – I wanted to be careful not to drive myself crazy Googling all sorts of things and worrying myself too much. I figured as long as I supported my son with love and truth, I'd keep him right.
I think we did OK! My son still bounded off to nursery every day, riding bikes and cars with super trooper levels of energy and giggling up a storm with his besties – and then he'd come home and crack open his toy doctor's kit and give his dad a most carefully executed check-up filled with gentle love and affection. Over the coming weeks and months we adjusted as a family and learned to navigate this new road. We carried on with life as usual, continuing to make memories and do all the typical things a young family enjoys doing. My son Harry has grown into a funny, well adjusted and kind little boy with lots of big ideas, thought-provoking questions and huge amounts of laughter and love.
Now, two years after the experience of beginning to tell my son about his dad's brain tumour, I think we look and seem like a pretty normal family, and you might not guess my husband has a serious illness unless you really knew about it. But we know our time is limited, and it's important to me that my two children remember their dad positively and with many, many memories of happiness and love. Thus, My Daddy Is My Superhero was born. It was so very natural to write that the words streamed out onto my phone over the course of just a few weeks – and after some encouragement from two amazing and loving friends of mine, I made some finishing touches and shared with my husband what I'd been typing away on my phone.
His response? Let me go back through my WhatsApp chat to check... (On a whim, I'd texted him the giant poem I had written.):
Me: I finished my children's book today. What do you think. Harry Love: Sorry a little confused? That also brought a tear to my eye Me: I'm gonna try to publish this. Me: If I can't get a publisher I'll self publish and promote with Maggie's, etc. Harry Love: You wrote this? Me: Yes. Harry Love: It's amazing Me: :D Harry Love: Like really amazing
... and then an hour or so later... :
Harry Love: Just to say that I got Harry a new tooth brush :)
So, the co-star of the book on board, I sent my writing around and found a small publisher who wants to work with me to get it published. It's important to me to get the work out there because I feel there are many children – not just my own – (and parents, too) who could benefit from it. It will be a wonderful achievement for me as a mother to do this for my family and potentially others.
The biggest thing I'd like to say about my book is that although its subject matter may be delicate, the story is intended to be beautiful. The imagery, the metaphors and the simple language are all meant to provide reassurance in a kind, familiar way. The text is full of love and is written in a very gentle way, and I think it does what I set out to do which is to celebrate and commemorate the love between a parent and child in a positive and truthful way. It is the kind of love that is timeless, placeless and ever-present, and I hope my boys will treasure what I have written for them from the depths of my heart.
Thanks for reading and keep visiting,
Our Story on Brain Tumour Research Website, 18 May 2018
Our Story in Edinburgh Evening News, 5 March 2018
Our Mention in The Scotsman Scotland on Sunday, 11 March 2018
Our Story on Memoria.com, 15 February 2018
Michaelagh's Story on Life with Baby Kicks Blog, 20 February 2018
Our Involvement with The Brain Tumour Charity, November 2017