To be honest, I'm surprised it took this long. Quinn is a pretty observant four-year-old. He'll often notice the expression on a truck's face in one of his library books and ask me why the truck is angry/sad/has "its face scrunched up like that." He's a master at those find the differences games in his Highlights High Five magazines. And last time I got my hair colored, I joked with my stylist that Quinn would probably notice before Chris. He's an astute kid.
As I was drying him off after his bath Saturday night, Quinn put his finger gently on one of my radiation tattoos, a pin dot in the middle of my chest.
"It's bluish-green, Mommy," and I waited to see what he would say next. Would I correct him if he called it a freckle? How much information should I give?
"How did that happen?" he asked, not quite what I expected to hear, the concern in his face breaking my heart just a bit, but also making me incredibly proud to be this perceptive, empathetic boy's mom. He knew it wasn't something natural.
"It's a tattoo," I said. And I showed him that I have at least three more, two under my armpits and one at the top curve of my right breast. He wanted to see if I had more on my back.
"No, honey," I told him. "There aren't any more."
He didn't ask anything else, so I didn't give him any more information.
Quinn and I are preparing for our trip to New York this week (still more on this as soon as I'm able!), for an event at which I've been asked to speak. (By preparing, I mean I've been doing laundry and he's been packing his coloring books and Hot Wheels cars.) I've been asked to share a bit of my breast cancer story at this thing, with Quinn by my side, so I've also been preparing by trying to let him know what to expect.
I've told him I got really sick when he was a baby. That medicine called chemo made me bald, and now I still get medicine to -- we hope -- keep me from getting sick again. I've told him I'm going to talk about that a little.
I haven't told him more because he's only four. I don't want him to know some things yet, if I can help it. I try to only answer the questions he asks. I'm trying to craft a short talk that's appropriate with him by my side but also conveys to a roomful of people the devastation of this disease. I also have chemo tomorrow, so I will be portraying a very real version of what life is like after a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis when I get up to talk two days later.
Please wish me luck.
Last night, Quinn and I were looking at pictures of when he was a baby, and came across a couple in which I am bald.
"How did you get sick, Mommy?" Quinn asked, a variation on a theme, apparently.
"I don't know, buddy. They don't know that yet."
They don't know.