Breast CancerPatient Stories

To Tell or Not to Tell: Sharing Your Diagnosis Your Way

Shaquita Estes explains how she and her husband handled “the talk” with their kids after her diagnosis, which inspired a children’s book No Hair, Don’t Care! she created with her young daughter, Lexie.
October 2021 Vol 7 No 5
Shaquita Estes
Palmetto, Georgia

To tell or not to tell is the million-dollar question, which relates to when you believe is the perfect time to share your breast cancer diagnosis with family members or friends. Even more important is—when do you share the news with your children?

Preparing for “The Talk”

For my husband and for me, this was one of the hardest conversations we had to prepare for. We lived in complete silence about my health for 2 months. We were afraid of not knowing how or what to tell our children about this devastating news. We wondered if they would think it was their fault, if they could potentially catch it, or even worse, if I would die.

Once we had a complete diagnosis and a treatment plan, we decided to share the news with our children. We knew this would be a very emotional family conversation, so my husband took the lead, as I sat between the children with my arms wrapped around them. The more he spoke, the more emotional we all became. This was a time for crying, moments of silence, questions, anger, and uncertainty.

Gathering Support Systems

Quite naturally, as their mother I felt I had lost all control and was unable to protect them. No mother wants to ever feel she is incapable of protecting her children. Therefore, my husband and I vowed that we would stand as a united force and fight together as a family. This meant that we would have to rally our intimate family, my best friends (affectionately known as the TA-TA Troop), and other support systems together to align with our family wishes, while standing in the gaps when we are too weak to carry on.

My Hair Journey

As my chemotherapy treatments began, I became fearful of losing my hair. It is common in African American culture that our hair represents our crown and covering. To know I would be stripped of that was completely devastating.

My hair started shedding faster than I had imagined. Before I knew it, patches of hair were falling out daily. So, I proactively decided to have my beautician shave off all my hair and go bald! This was one of the most liberating experiences, because I decided not to allow hair loss to take control of my thoughts and feelings during my journey through breast cancer.

During this transition period, I became cognizant of my daughter’s fear as well. She was always concerned that I would wear my head wrap, wig, or hat when we were going out in public. This was her way of trying to protect me from being hurt by others. I would constantly remind her that it would never matter what others might say, all that mattered was that we love each other, and nothing would ever change my love for her or for her brother.

It was only at that moment that I realized my hair journey had not only taken a toll on me, it also affected my 8-year-old daughter, Lexie.

Thriving with a Children’s Book

As we talked more openly about her feelings, Lexie and I decided to create a children’s book, which we called No Hair, Don’t Care! to express our journey. The book also serves as a resource for other families (and can be ordered online). This empowering book allows parents to engage their children in honest and encouraging discussions about cancer.

Creating this book was a therapeutic task not only for us; it also taught us several meaningful lessons. One lesson was learning how to become stronger through this adversity. This lesson was not always easy, but we drew on the strength of each other and our family and friends.

Another lesson we learned was how to appreciate each other more, and not take life for granted. We also realized that even with or without hair, all we needed was prayer, love, and determination to overcome this adversity as a family.

Today we are more than authors, we are survivors.

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Last modified: November 8, 2021

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