Sharing the bad news – My Messy Beautiful


And so it was, that mid-November diagnosis of breast cancer.

The numbness. The terror. The oh-fuck-what-do-I-tell-my-girls?

Because at 10 and 13, they didn’t deserve to have their world rocked. And it certainly wasn’t in a good rock-it-out kind of way.

You see, in the beginning, it was me, and then it was We.

We, first formed when the soulful 9-month old was placed in my arms in a hotel in the south of China. And then we became we squared, I thought, when in the capital of China’s zestiest province, an equally-beautiful 8-month old was handed to me.

Through the years, then, we became We Three.

Almost 13 years after first becoming a family, it became my responsibility to share the breast cancer news. To my thinking, it meant shaking the foundation on which my family was built.

When you have to share bad news with those you love most – and they happen to be kids – just what is there to do?

I considered them above all and armed myself with information, the kind that a kid could understand. No Internet stories. Facts. Age-appropriate ones. And although I may have felt in a tailspin, this was about them. It decidedly was not. about. me. Not one bit.

Them, their thoughts, their feelings, their world.

Of course I reluctantly was on the mainstage, but it wasn’t their role to be supporting players. Quite the contrary; it was my job to support them. Just like always. Nothing had changed in that regard. No cancer diagnosis was going to get in the way.

And so I took a deep breath and did the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Harder than burying grandparents. Harder by far than arguing a case before a jury. Harder than delivering a eulogy. Harder even than saying goodbye to a long-ago marriage.

Deep breath hard, I tell you.

It made me empathize with those who choose to not tell. Because the brutality (really, the plain horror) of being their only parent and having to say those words to each of my girls took my breath away. In some ways I was waiting for an earth tremble, a storm, biting hail – something, anything.

Weren’t the heavens heaving as much as my chest?

And yet, we got through it. Each handled it in her own way.

There were some tears.

There were questions, even curiosity (complete with diagrams) at what the surgery would entail.

They accepted this piece of news that had so terrified me to share. They understood the treatment plan that I explained. They acknowledged that it would be a bump in the road of our family, and yet, we remained We Three.

Through it all, even on the crappy days of recovery and especially on the You-Are-Cured! day, my girls and I, we were – we are – We Three.


I’m delighted to be participating in the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — to learn more and join us, click here.

And for more about Momastery and Glennon Melton’s memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, click here. It’s inspiration personified; you won’t be disappointed. I promise.

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10 Responses to Sharing the bad news – My Messy Beautiful

  1. deeluka says:

    You are amazing…I am blessed that our quilts crossed.

  2. April O'Donnell says:

    Everyone should have a mom like you.. I did. I was one of the lucky ones. Even though my kids are grown adults, I still strive to fill those shoes. God bless you and your girls.

  3. Kris Etze says:

    Lisa, your words so inspire. The girls and you are so lucky you are three! Beautiful.
    Can’t imagine the fear.

  4. nikkiana says:

    You are a beautiful warrior. 🙂

  5. Pam badame says:

    Hi Lisa, I am sure that although sharing the news was difficult you did absolutely the best thing…sharing! Your daughters were able to ask questions and not hear whispering about what was going on! We three remains strong! You all have my prayers going out for you! Stay strong!!!

  6. Nora O'Dea says:

    Lisa, I know exactly how you felt. I told my oldest son (who lives in Syracuse) what was going on as soon as I knew I needed the biopsies. He’s religious & I wanted him to pray. But my youngest (another boy, age 26) lives in Colorado and is very emotional. I waited until I knew my diagnosis for sure and then called him. But first I had to steel myself and wrap myself in my cloak of courage. He reacted as I anticipated – he cried. My sons had just lost their biological father a little over a year ago and even my stoic older son was rocked by my news. But, I’ve always believed in telling them the truth and then helping them deal with that truth. We’re both so lucky, Lisa, to have overcome this stupid cancer. And I’m so glad that my sons (and husband!) don’t have to deal with the alternative.

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