I told my daughters the ‘news’ at the kitchen table

This entry was written by Julie Clark, author of You Are the Best Medicine. Look out for Julie at this year’s Fall Conference where she will sign copies of her new children’s book, which highlights interactive dialogue on how to talk to your children about breast cancer.

My kitchen table has stories. It has been the center of so much more than food. It has seen homework and art projects, Scrabble games and crazy eights. We read the newspaper and drink coffee here. I started my first company, Baby Einstein, at this table. The kitchen table is where our friends gather, not the spacious living room or the comfortable den. And though it is made of plain wood and been the victim of ketchup spills, crayon scrapings and fork stabbings, there is a kind of warmth to it unlike any other place in our house.

So it seems both right and strange to have told my children the terrible news “Mommy has cancer” at this table. After all, it was a where we had shared so much. Why not this? To be truthful, I needed the comfort of this place to help me.

What is worse than hearing you have cancer is telling your kids that you have it. No matter how old they are, everyone knows this truth: Cancer is Bad. It’s ugly. Have you ever seen a close-up photograph of a tumor cell?  It doesn’t belong at the kitchen table. I would spray it with disinfectant and scour it away if I saw it there.

It doesn’t belong in my body, either – and yet, there it is. I do my best to scour it away. Chemotherapy doesn’t seem much different than the chemicals I use to clean the kitchen table. It serves the same purpose. Remove the stain.

I sat at the table with my daughters, and I said these words: “Mommy has cancer, but I’m going to be okay.” I’m quite sure it was not the only half-truth that had been told at that table, but it was certainly the most important one. There was a stain, and mommy was going to do her best to remove it.

There are a lot of theories about how to approach this disease with a child, but I haven’t read them. I’ve done what feels right to me. I’m an expert because I have children and because I have cancer. This gives me a kind of credibility unknown to a psychiatrist or child-rearing expert. I believe that allowing my children to have hope remains a critical part of my survival, and theirs. Was I going to be okay? I still don’t know. But I need to believe.

I wrote a picture book for children called You Are the Best Medicine, and it’s based on my belief in hope and love. Although I know that hope and love alone won’t cure me of cancer, I do believe these things have a powerful effect on my life. I really believe it has helped my daughters. If this book can help to soften the terrible news “Someone you love has cancer,” it’s done its job.

We meet at our kitchen table as a family, and it is somehow right to talk about our most intimate stories here. It is here we say grace, and ask for it.



baby einstein, news you can use: breast cancer updates for living well, fall conference, talk to kids about cancer

Julie Clark (far right) and her two daughters share a family moment

In 2004, Julie was diagnosed  with non-invasive breast cancer. At the time, her two daughters were very young. By 2008, Julie would have to tell her daughters that the cancer has returned and the doctors found a spot on her liver. Listen to Julie’s take on metastatic breast cancer in the “Faces of Metastatic Breast Cancer” video and read her blog, “Living is what we strive for.” 

To register for LBBC’s fall conference, News You Can Use: Breast Cancer Updates for Living Well, visit our website today. It’s not too late to register and you may qualify for a fee waiver.



One thought on “I told my daughters the ‘news’ at the kitchen table

  1. I loved the symbolism reflected in your story. The kitchen table is the focal point in my home as well; it was always that way for me. My mom’s house, my grandmom’s and my friends. So many moments; good, bad, happy, sad, and funny have all gone down at the table. Also I am in total agreement that the only thing worse than hearing that you have breast cancer is telling your children that you have breast cancer. Kudos for a fabulous story.

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