It’s Daffodil Day – a big day on the Sydneymum calendar because as women and mothers, we all know someone who is battling, has battled or is living with cancer. We have rallied around Daniella’s Facebook campaign and today we rally around a guest post, written by a wonderful Sydney mum, Carla Jassen.
‘A Dragon Fighting Warrior Princess’ – The true story of how I became a dragon warrior princess
Talking to my children about cancer
My children were 2, 3 and 5 when I was diagnosed. In the days after the diagnosis I told my children that I had breast cancer: I explained what cancer is and what my treatment would involve. I said cancer cells are sick cells that grow out of control, and that you have to remove or destroy them if you want to live a long and healthy life. I explained to them quite specifically how each step of treatment would work, and what the doctors hoped it would do – from surgery to chemotherapy, right through to post-treatment mediation. Ever since the intensive part of the treatment has been completed, I take a daily tablet to prevent recurrence. I call it my anti-cancer pill.My children understood a lot of what I explained. I didn’t go into it all in one big conversation – I added information over the course of many short conversations, often at times when we were together as a family: in the car, walking to school or preschool, having dinner, playing in the garden. I wanted to make sure they were always informed, and would never have to overhear information that was new to them.
How I became a dragon fighting warrior princess
One day at lunchtime, soon after my mastectomy and my first chemo, I also made up an extra story for my kids. It was not something I had planned or thought through, it was just a story I started telling and made up as I went along. The story is about how one night, when everyone in my house was asleep, a bird pecked at my window. She asked for my help to fight a dangerous dragon. I got my sword and got ready to fight the dragon. While I was battling the dragon, it managed to scratch me with its big sharp claws, scratching my right breast off. It then started breathing flames, burning all the hair off my head. I finally managed to wound the dragon with my sword. It got scared and flew away, hopefully never to return. I told my kids that I might look like an ordinary mum, but my bald head and the scar where my breast used to be are proof that I am secretly a dragon fighting warrior princess.Initially I made up the story just for my children. My then 3 and 5-year old boys both love dragons, swords and fighting. My little girl, who was just 2 at diagnosis, loves princesses and dresses. I knew the story would appeal to all three of them. It took me a while to realise how much comfort the story brought not just to my children, but also to myself. Sometimes I look in the mirror and see a woman scarred by breast cancer. Sometimes I look in the mirror and see a dragon fighting warrior princess.
The power of a 3-minute video
A few months after treatment, my family and I made a little video about our breast cancer experience. The video tells the story of my cancer diagnosis and treatment as well as the story of the dragon fighting warrior princess. Working on this family project with my husband and kids, looking back on the last two years and what we’d been through, has been cathartic. It was so great to put our story into drawings and paintings that the family contributed to, to find photos that tell our story, to pick the right song to go with it.
We always encourage comments and the sharing of stories so please feel free to do so below or on our Facebook page.
Thank you to Isabelle from The Cancer Council and Carla Jassen.