In August 2013, mum of two Katherine Simpson-Jacobs was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, but one of the most daunting things was having to explain the news to her two young girls, then aged 4 and 6, which, according to Daily Mail, was a “huge added pressure” at an already emotional and stressful time.
In an effort to help other families who may be going through similar situations, Simpson-Jacobs penned her book What We Did When Mummy Got Cancer while she was undergoing treatment, which she hoped would give parents the opportunity to discuss the disease with their children. According to her website, she has the “aim of helping other families in her situation”.
When Simpson-Jacobs was first diagnosed, she decided to keep the news from her two young girls for fear that they would not understand what was happening.
“I didn’t say ‘cancer’ to them for quite some time”, she told Daily Mail. “What I didn’t want was for someone in the playground to say, ‘My granny has just died of cancer'”.
Simpson-Jacobs asked her nurses and advisers for material to help her explain what was going on to her children. They recommended Mummy’s Lump by Gillian Forrest, but Simpson-Jacobs felt the story may confuse her children and that there needed to be another book out there.
“The story has been vetted and approved by the Oncology team at Ipswich Hospital, ensuring that all information is medically accurate and that the process is made as clear as possible to a young audience”, her website states. “In normalising the process, it is hoped that many of the worries and questions raised by children in these circumstances will be allayed”.
For more on her book — which costs £6 + £2 P&P or just £3 if you download it — you can visit her website here.
Simpson-Jacobs isn’t the only person who’s realised that there is a need for more material on this subject.
In 2012, a book called What Happened When Mommy Got Cancer was written by Mathuin Smith, a young boy whose mother was diagnosed with cancer, and the story offered an account from a child’s point of view.
According to the book’s description on Amazon, “He wrote the book to make himself feel better and to help other children who are facing a similar challenge in their lives. A practical yet positive true story of this family’s experience as Mathuin’s mother was treated for breast cancer”.
For more information on how to speak to your children about cancer, you can visit the Macmillan Cancer Support group, who offer advice that includes being “honest, specific and using simple language” and also suggest that drawings and books could help younger children to understand.