I went to the hospital and had a biopsy taken this morning. There is a small risk that there is cancer in my thyroid – a small risk. For years I have had a big rather friendly goitre on my neck, which is now becoming painful and intrusive, and the doctors want to check it out.
Do I talk to my children about this? Is it worth unsettling them, when in all probability nothing will come of it? I have decided that no, I will not tell them. No matter how I approach the subject, I think they might still give it too much significance. They are, after all, still young.
I am curious though about what we choose to discuss, and what we choose to hide from one another, and why we hide anything at all. Perhaps if I was open about my cancer scare with my kids and they watched it unfold, they would become more resilient about similar worries they might have to handle in later life. After all, if the only stories about cancer you ever hear are about those that cannot be hidden (i.e. prove fatal), you might not appreciate how many biopsies return negatives, or how often people survive cancer.
Sometimes we hide things because it’s clear they just find it too painful. I don’t always tell Joe when Julie has self-harmed, for example, because it upsets him so much. It’s only recently he’s been able to admit how he feels, but the distress shows clearly in his face and in his body language. Sometimes we hide things because it’s difficult to handle the other person’s reaction. This is probably why I am not telling my children about my tests: I don’t want to have to deal with their feelings of distress.