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Jazz Cooper and her daughters

The day I told my children I had breast cancer

When it came to telling her two daughters about her breast cancer diagnosis, Jazz Cooper found that honesty was the best policy.

My daughters were 9 and 11 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and from the start I wanted to be honest with them.

I warned them I had found a lump and that I had to go to the hospital for some tests.

On the day I was diagnosed they were staying with my parents because it was the summer holidays. I told my older daughter Amy over the phone but decided that I would tell Katie face to face a few days later.

But children pick up on things and before I could tell her she phoned me up and said: ‘Now listen Mum, I think there’s something going on and I don’t think it’s good and I think it’s to do with you.’ So I had to tell her then.

A crucial time

My breast cancer came at a crucial time for Amy as she was moving up to secondary school. For me though that period is a blur and I’m really angry that I missed that. I wasn’t there to set boundaries and you can’t pull them back afterwards. But they did have fantastic support from their schools and Amy even had some counselling which her school organised for her.

One thing I was keen on was keeping them from seeing other people’s reactions to the news that I had breast cancer. So I called round all the parents at their schools to tell them. I didn’t want people to ask what was wrong with me in front of the girls and have them see that initial shock on people’s faces.

I lost my hair through chemotherapy and most of the time I wore a turban. When I was at home with just my husband and children, though, I would take it off. But they would ask me to put it back on again and cover my head up.

I didn’t really understand this until I caught a glimpse of myself in the dining room mirror. I realised I’d been avoiding looking at myself in the mirror because I didn’t want the reminder that I was ill – and yet I expected them to look at me.

Do what’s right for you

If I was to offer advice for other mothers in my position I would say: follow your instincts.

Do what you think is right for you and your family in that moment. I tried to be open, honest and brave with my children. I didn't always make the right choices but I discussed things openly with the kids and they understood why I made the decisions that I did.

There is a lot of information out there to help you and to help children understand cancer. And there’s support available for you and for them.

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