Back to School, Parenting with MBC
Last updated: September 2022
When I was diagnosed with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) in 2017, my boys were 2 and 4 and they attended a Montessori pre-school. We were just getting into the world of "school" with them and their lessons were much more about learning to fall in love with learning than anything else.
Now that it's been a few years and they are fully immersed in elementary school, we've had to make some adjustments and accommodations not only for them but also for me the longer that I live with MBC.
5 tips for returning to school
I can't say that we know all of the answers, but here are a few things that have helped us over the years.
1. Be open and honest about MBC with the teachers and staff
Every year, I educate a new group of people as the boys move classrooms and now, a new school. The more they know about what is going on with me, the better they can support my boys. This includes updating them about progressions, medication changes, surgeries, hospitalizations, etc.
2. Help out as much as possible, within the limits of your energy
It's no secret that teachers are human beings and if they like you, if you are helpful and responsive, there are often ways that they will assist without being asked. While I can't always serve as a room parent or show up for every field trip, whenever they ask for supplies or someone to complete a task, I try to be the first in line.
3. Be open with your children, within developmental limits
Children talk to each other and often trust each other more than adults. Arming my children with the information appropriate to their developmental levels is key to ensure that they don't freak out when another child talks about a relative who has died from cancer or thinks that cancer = death.
4. Give space to your children to talk
Every day when I pick up the boys, we do an exercise where I ask them about the worst and best parts of their day. I get more information this way than just asking them how their day went. And sometimes they get into the car excited to tell me what was great about their day in anticipation of my question.
5. Make Mom/Dad friends
I've chosen to be very open about the experience of MBC on social media and on my blog, so it's not so hard to direct other parents to those sources so that I don't have to repeat myself. If you aren't so open, pick another family or two to share what is going on so that they can be of support and backup. Sometimes just picking up children from school is difficult when you've spent all your spoons and having others to call on in those circumstances is key.
Since COVID-19 and many of the school incidents over the years, some schools are getting better at having mental health support and the guidance counselors are more involved with supporting children and families who need some extra TLC.
These resources are usually accessed through the guidance counselor, so getting to know him/her and ensuring that they also are aware of what is going on at home can be an extra layer of support for children. In my view, the more supportive adults around them, the better, so that when they need/want to talk, there is someone there.
And now it's your turn -- if you are a parent living with MBC, what are your tips as the kiddos return to school?
Advanced breast cancer is an isolating and lonely disease.