We're All In This Together

by Brooke Burke-Charvet

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The past few months have been a seriously eye-opening experience for me.

One of the things I've really learned is how much what I'm going through in my life affects the people around me who care about me and love me.

And I just wanted to give you guys some insight in case, God forbid you're going through your own medical challenges or possibly you know someone who is.

I wanted to share with you the way my family has been dealing with it, and the way I've been dealing with them.

I decided not to tell my children about my diagnosis for as long as I possibly could because I didn't want them to worry. I know that my younger ones still don't have a great concept of time and I didn't want them to be anxious, worried and asking 1,000 questions.

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.

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.

My 10-year-old processes things very differently. She's very factual and scientific and her response was "Ok, Mommy so you're going to get the lump removed, so that's a good thing." Sierra left it at that and never brought my surgery up again.

David and I both agreed not to tell our youngest children until very close to my surgery date.

Unfortunately my five-year-old saw a snippet of the video I made when she was scrolling through pictures on my phone. Thyroid cancer is not foreign to her because my best friend has gone through it, so Rain has heard many conversations about cancer, but she ran to me - very angry and surprised - and said "You're having surgery, Mommy, and you didn't tell me?!?"

So when I sat down to discuss it with her, I said that I didn't want to worry her and explained what was happening - that I had a little lump in my neck and the doctor needed to remove it and that I was going to be fine.

Then she looked me dead in the eyes and said "It's called cancer, Mom."  She's a very deep,old soul; she's like a 40-year-old woman trapped in a beautiful five-year-old body. Her biggest concern was being with me through my experience. Not me leaving her, but being with me. Children process things so differently. Rain said she NEEDED to be with me - she wanted to go to the doctor's appointments and she wanted to go to the hospital and said she needed to hold my hand.

She's a kid who can handle a lot so in my mind and heart it actually felt ok knowing that she may need to be with me the day of surgery. Rain came home from school on several days and said that she heard a lot of "grandmas have it too," which meant that she was talking to her young friends about my diagnosis and that they were sharing their family stories.  Her teachers also mentioned her discussions with them, which I think is healthy and important for Rain's process. She is insistent about going to the hospital with David and me. I understand and support that.  I don't think it's an appropriate choice for many kids, but Rain is my exception and if that is what she needs, it's fine with me.

My son is four, and I doubt he totally understands.  His response was, "Is Daddy going to get it too?" And of course I explained that wasn't going to happen and Mommy was going to be just fine. He laid in bed last night with David, kinda sad and said, "I don't want Mommy to die….."  That's the stuff that breaks my heart and scares me.  We both held him and told him that I wasn't going to leave him ever. I know that my surgery is not that serious, but kids get scared, hear "hospital" and go to the darkest place. Poor little guy.

I have such a big family and so much love from my brothers and sisters. I have an amazing relationship with David's parents and my mom - and everyone has made themselves available. My friends have offered to make food, they've offered to pick up my children, they've offered to organize play dates, to come over for movie nights and to keep me company while I am recovering. They've just been absolutely incredible.

What I'm learning how to do now is say yes more than I say no. I know I've written about that concept before but now I find myself truly in a place of need and a little bit out of control knowing that I have to put my condition in someone else's hand, and that I'm actually going to have to step down and let other people step up. Knowing that I have such a supportive village around me is really comforting - more than I ever would have imagined.

So I've stocked the house up, I've done all my grocery shopping, I've made a few meals and the fridge is stocked with leftovers. I've organized all my children's schedules and downloaded a few books. I've packed my bag; I'm pretty much prepared and ready… with a lot of faith, a hopeful mind and the intent to have a speedy recovery.

I'm not afraid anymore. I think I've been dealing with it so much the past couple months that now I'm ready to just get it done and put this behind me. My only need is being ok for my husband and my children so they don't have to go through any pain and making this as easy as possible for them.

I've really realized that everything I'm going through, my family is going through too. I think I'm as concerned for my husband as he is for me - he's been so strong and such a rock. He's trying not to show any of his fears and concerns so that he can be strong for me. But we've had our moments and I think it's so, so important that you care for everyone in a family that's dealing with a medical crisis the same way you emotionally care for the patient themselves.

Because we're all in this together.

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