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HowToTellYourKidsYouHaveCancer

LisaJohnsonSmith
LisaJohnsonSmith Breast Cancer Survivor, NBA Wife, Mom of Boys, Daughter of the King, Real Estate Agent, TV Host/Producer, Amateur Artist, Dog Lover, Teen Mentor
almost 3 years Story
How To Tell Your Kids You Have Cancer


“Mrs. Smith, you have breast cancer.”

Pure shock overcame me.

Those aren’t words I thought I’d ever hear in my lifetime.

Immediately, I called my husband at the office, knowing I could be vulnerable with him, and that his strength would enhance my own. But my brain would not cooperate with my mouth to utter those four irrevocable words. “I have breast cancer.”

When the words were finally spoken, the tears began to flow.

“How do I tell my boys?” I began to really cry. Sob. Weep. Not because of my diagnosis, per se, but because the thought of possibly not being around for my babies, my then, three teenage sons, was heart wrenching.

Isn’t it something how we moms think? Immediately, I went into “Momma Bear mode” wanting to protect them.

“What will happen to my boys if I’m not around?” I held back the tears for now. “I have to be strong for them, “ I told myself.

I knew I didn’t want to tell them until after we had established a clear plan: finding an in-network breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, hospital, and securing a surgery date and treatment plan.

It was 2014, and our boys were age 13, 16, and 19. Our 19-yr-old was away at college, so once we had a plan, we decided that we’d tell the boys when they were all at home at the same time—but separately because of their age differences. That way, no one would feel awkward about their natural reaction—whether it was sadness, anger, or just plain questions.

Because life happens when it wants to, I had to hold on to this God-forsaken revelation for what seemed like an eternity. The news came in the midst of two of their back-to-back birthdays, and there’s no way I would ruin those! I waited until after Thanksgiving and then mid-terms to end for my then-College Sophomore. All the while, my husband and I are running up and down Interstate 95 from NYC to NJ, doctor to doctor, having God knows how many tests…and keeping it a secret from them ALL.

The day finally came. All of their reactions were completely different.

I decided to tell my 16-yr-old while joining him on a walk with our three dogs.

“I have something to tell you,” I said.

“What?” he answered.

“I have breast cancer,” I said in my best matter-of-factly voice.

“Wait. What? How long have you known this?”

“A few weeks,” I said. "We didn’t want to tell you until we had a plan.”

His reaction? “So, what now?”

I explained to him that I opted to have a double mastectomy and may need chemotherapy after that.

Other than his shock that I, his mother, could actually get cancer, he really had few words. He asked when the surgery date was and proceeded to pick up the dog's poop.

One down. Two to go.

My 13-yr-old is a funny guy. Ironically enough, the weekend after my biopsy, he shared with me that one of his classmate’s moms had breast cancer. He was sure she was dying. I assured him that she was not—but what a great segue for me!

I told him. “Remember when you told me about your classmate’s mom having breast cancer?” “Yes,” he answered. “I have breast cancer, too," I said, “and I’m going to be fine."

“Wait…you??!” (kids tend to think nothing can happen totheir mom). “Yes. But, I’m okay. God is going to heal me. I’m not worried and neither should you be.”

(silence)

“Who’s gonna drive me to basketball practice and make my lunch?” he asked.

At that moment, I knew he was okay. Mission accomplished.

My oldest son has always been a deep thinker. I knew this would not be a short conversation. I sat him down alone in my home office and told him the news. He was shocked. I think he asked me more questions than I initially asked my oncologist! He was concerned about his brothers—how they took the news. I assured him that they were ok, and so was I.

And so was he.

Phew. They all now knew. And not one tear!

My husband and I then gathered the boys together in the family room to further discuss details of “mom’s breast cancer diagnosis. "By that time, the boys had all conferred with one another.

This, for me, was an unspoken way to let “it” out in the open and allow them to feel like it wasn’t anything shameful, secretive, or a topic that they couldn’t discuss. They’d had some time to think about it by now, and they could ask any questions or make any comments that they wanted. Each was able to see how the other was dealing with it so that they didn’t feel as if they were alone in their feelings.

This was going to be a journey we were taking as a family. I wanted them to know that they could lean on each other as much as they could lean on their dad and I.

Still not a single tear shed. Not even from me. They listened to my voice and were surprised at my strength. I surprised myself. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t worried. I was confident that God was going to get all of us through this, and they believed me... and He did.

instragram: https://www.instagram.com/lisajohnsonsmith



21 replies

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  • Ryan Nicole
    almost 3 years ago

    This is an amazing story Lisa and thank you for sharing! No one can be prepared for this and I think you handled it with grace and the right way. Your family will always be there for you to support you through anything! You are so strong!

    This is an amazing story Lisa and thank you for sharing! No one can be prepared for this and I think you handled it with grace and the right way. Your family will always be there for you to support you through anything! You are so strong!

    • LisaJohnsonSmith
      LisaJohnsonSmith Breast Cancer Survivor, NBA Wife, Mom of Boys, Daughter of the King, Real Estate Agent, TV Host/Producer, Amateur Artist, Dog Lover, Teen Mentor
      almost 3 years ago

      Thank you, Ryan. You're so right. Family is everything. And though my family and friends were there for me 150%, I was still so unsure of how to tell my kids. I hope my story can help others.

      Thank you, Ryan. You're so right. Family is everything. And though my family and friends were there for me 150%, I was still so unsure of how to tell my kids. I hope my story can help others.

  • Olivia Facini
    almost 3 years ago

    Wonderful story! The support, trust, and love of family is shelter in a storm and gives us incredible strength, especially during difficult times.

    Wonderful story! The support, trust, and love of family is shelter in a storm and gives us incredible strength, especially during difficult times.

    • LisaJohnsonSmith
      LisaJohnsonSmith Breast Cancer Survivor, NBA Wife, Mom of Boys, Daughter of the King, Real Estate Agent, TV Host/Producer, Amateur Artist, Dog Lover, Teen Mentor
      almost 3 years ago

      Thank you, Olivia. So true!

      Thank you, Olivia. So true!

  • Charlene Darko
    almost 3 years ago NYC, NY, United States

    Wow. What a beautiful story of strength, courage and support. I applaud you. *Big Hug*

    Wow. What a beautiful story of strength, courage and support. I applaud you. *Big Hug*

    • LisaJohnsonSmith
      LisaJohnsonSmith Breast Cancer Survivor, NBA Wife, Mom of Boys, Daughter of the King, Real Estate Agent, TV Host/Producer, Amateur Artist, Dog Lover, Teen Mentor
      almost 3 years ago

      Thanks...and big hug right back atcha!

      Thanks...and big hug right back atcha!

  • Mona Naser
    almost 3 years ago New York, NY, United States

    You are a really strong women! It was really hard for my mom to tells my sisters and I. she couldn't even say it directly which made it so much more difficult to deal with. thank god she's better now and I'm glad you are too

    You are a really strong women! It was really hard for my mom to tells my sisters and I. she couldn't even say it directly which made it so much more difficult to deal with. thank god she's better now and I'm glad you are too

    • LisaJohnsonSmith
      LisaJohnsonSmith Breast Cancer Survivor, NBA Wife, Mom of Boys, Daughter of the King, Real Estate Agent, TV Host/Producer, Amateur Artist, Dog Lover, Teen Mentor
      almost 3 years ago

      Mona- thank you. This is probably one of the hardest things your mom has ever had to do. I know that you are both stronger because of it. I am so glad that your mom is better now.

      Mona- thank you. This is probably one of the hardest things your mom has ever had to do. I know that you are both stronger because of it. I am so glad that your mom is better now.

      • Mona Naser
        almost 3 years ago New York, NY, United States

        thats true our relationship got a lot stronger. thank you so much

        thats true our relationship got a lot stronger. thank you so much

  • Sita Lewis 24
    almost 3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing BFF... Of course u shared with me and I def shed a bunch of tears. But knowing in advance that ALL things work together for our Good, because we love God and we are called according HIS purpose, makes all the difference in the world. No matter what we face, I wouldn't want to face life's ups and downs without our savior, Jesus Christ! So glad this story is now part of your testimony. A test that God passed with flying colors. Thankful that it's impossible for our Lord to fail. That is why we cast ALL of our cares on him... For he cares for US! Love u sis!

    Thanks for sharing BFF... Of course u shared with me and I def shed a bunch of tears. But knowing in advance that ALL things work together for our Good, because we love God and we are called according HIS purpose, makes all the difference in the world. No matter what we face, I wouldn't want to face life's ups and downs without our savior, Jesus Christ! So glad this story is now part of your testimony. A test that God passed with flying colors. Thankful that it's impossible for our Lord to fail. That is why we cast ALL of our cares on him... For he cares for US! Love u sis!

    • LisaJohnsonSmith
      LisaJohnsonSmith Breast Cancer Survivor, NBA Wife, Mom of Boys, Daughter of the King, Real Estate Agent, TV Host/Producer, Amateur Artist, Dog Lover, Teen Mentor
      almost 3 years ago

      Shouting AMEN, to my BFF! Well said. Love you too!

      Shouting AMEN, to my BFF! Well said. Love you too!

  • mdodson41
    almost 3 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story! Dealing with a health challenge myself, I understand the importance of sharing our stories to help others. It takes a strong women, the love of God, support of family and friends to endure what you have gone through and to be able to continue on the journey ahead. You are truly blessed!!!! Keep hope alive. May God continue to strengthen you and your family.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story! Dealing with a health challenge myself, I understand the importance of sharing our stories to help others. It takes a strong women, the love of God, support of family and friends to endure what you have gone through and to be able to continue on the journey ahead. You are truly blessed!!!! Keep hope alive. May God continue to strengthen you and your family.

    • LisaJohnsonSmith
      LisaJohnsonSmith Breast Cancer Survivor, NBA Wife, Mom of Boys, Daughter of the King, Real Estate Agent, TV Host/Producer, Amateur Artist, Dog Lover, Teen Mentor
      almost 3 years ago

      It IS so important! When I was sick, I wanted to read everything I could about anyone's experience ! I inhaled every detail when I would meet someone who was further along in their journey than I was. It gave me strength and hope and allowed me to see that there was light at the end of the tunnel. And that's all I want to do for others.

      It IS so important! When I was sick, I wanted to read everything I could about anyone's experience ! I inhaled every detail when I would meet someone who was further along in their journey than I was. It gave me strength and hope and allowed me to see that there was light at the end of the tunnel. And that's all I want to do for others.

  • Charles D Smith
    almost 3 years ago

    I had to have the highest level of determination to play in the NBA for 10 years. My wife took it and me to another level with her faith in God. The strength and perseverance she displayed daily was astonishing. Her upbeat attitude made people, including our sons think Lisa wasn't really that sick throughout....

    I had to have the highest level of determination to play in the NBA for 10 years. My wife took it and me to another level with her faith in God. The strength and perseverance she displayed daily was astonishing. Her upbeat attitude made people, including our sons think Lisa wasn't really that sick throughout....

  • Charles D Smith
    almost 3 years ago

    I had to have the highest level of determination to play in the NBA for 10 years. My wife took it and me to another level with her faith in God. The strength and perseverance she displayed daily was astonishing. Her upbeat attitude made people, including our sons think Lisa wasn't really that sick throughout....

    I had to have the highest level of determination to play in the NBA for 10 years. My wife took it and me to another level with her faith in God. The strength and perseverance she displayed daily was astonishing. Her upbeat attitude made people, including our sons think Lisa wasn't really that sick throughout....

    • LisaJohnsonSmith
      LisaJohnsonSmith Breast Cancer Survivor, NBA Wife, Mom of Boys, Daughter of the King, Real Estate Agent, TV Host/Producer, Amateur Artist, Dog Lover, Teen Mentor
      almost 3 years ago

      Thanks, honey. You held it down when I could not. Knowing I could lean on you (literally) during my "moments"was a huge source of my strength.

      Thanks, honey. You held it down when I could not. Knowing I could lean on you (literally) during my "moments"was a huge source of my strength.

  • namisha
    namisha Inquisitive, Avid Reader, Food Lover, Amateur Chef, Digital Sensei
    almost 3 years ago New York, NY, United States

    Its very touching! Hope you are doing better.

    Its very touching! Hope you are doing better.

    • LisaJohnsonSmith
      LisaJohnsonSmith Breast Cancer Survivor, NBA Wife, Mom of Boys, Daughter of the King, Real Estate Agent, TV Host/Producer, Amateur Artist, Dog Lover, Teen Mentor
      almost 3 years ago

      Doing great! Thanks!

      Doing great! Thanks!

  • djamom
    almost 3 years ago

    Thank you for sharing this. So many times we have to discuss difficult situations and the best way is to "Just Do It". With faith in God and the right time working together is the perfect equation. I hope that your story/experience reaches everyone. Thank you and To God Be the Glory 🙏🏽❤️🙏🏽❤️🙏🏽

    Thank you for sharing this. So many times we have to discuss difficult situations and the best way is to "Just Do It". With faith in God and the right time working together is the perfect equation. I hope that your story/experience reaches everyone. Thank you and To God Be the Glory 🙏🏽❤️🙏🏽❤️🙏🏽

  • Nancy Cookie Glover 2
    almost 3 years ago

    I wish that I could reach out to you right now and hug you...With tears in my eyes...not because I am sad...but for your overwhelming strength and encouraging words for other women who are sharing or have shared your plight...I cannot begin to understand how powerful you felt after telling your children you have breast cancer...but I stand with you from a distance and say I love you my sister..m keep fighting, keep praying God has this!!!

    I wish that I could reach out to you right now and hug you...With tears in my eyes...not because I am sad...but for your overwhelming strength and encouraging words for other women who are sharing or have shared your plight...I cannot begin to understand how powerful you felt after telling your children you have breast cancer...but I stand with you from a distance and say I love you my sister..m keep fighting, keep praying God has this!!!

    • LisaJohnsonSmith
      LisaJohnsonSmith Breast Cancer Survivor, NBA Wife, Mom of Boys, Daughter of the King, Real Estate Agent, TV Host/Producer, Amateur Artist, Dog Lover, Teen Mentor
      almost 3 years ago

      Nancy- I know I would feel all of your empathy in that one embrace. Thank you so much for your heartfelt words.

      Nancy- I know I would feel all of your empathy in that one embrace. Thank you so much for your heartfelt words.


LisaJohnsonSmith
Breast Cancer Survivor, NBA Wife, Mom of Boys, Daughter of the King, Real Estate Agent, TV Host/Producer, Amateur Artist, Dog Lover, Teen Mentor

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