How do you as a mother talk to your children about cancer? This question has been on the minds of many people since Princess Kate’s Instagram video was published. Last year you wrote a children’s book on exactly this topic. How did you tell your children that you had cancer? After my diagnosis, I received a whole stack of terrible brochures and books. We are a book family, and even though they were so terrible, my kids clung to them. For them, this book route and finding out what I might look like was a gateway. They were still small at the time, two and four years old, so they didn’t talk about the fact that I might not get well again. That’s beyond the capabilities of that age.

Today things are actually different. My daughters are now nine, seven and almost two. I’ll just be honest and we’ll tell you what it’s like, what’s happening, what treatments are due. We’re trying to absorb it as best we can.

Julia Rosenkranz, 38, is an author, editor and mother of three daughters aged 9, 7 and almost 2 years. She lives with her husband and children in Leipzig. Her children’s book “When Mom Was Once Invisible” on the topic of cancer was published in July 2023. Rosenkranz was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago and had a recurrence in August 2023. Since January 2024, she has been undergoing chemotherapy again after further operations. “Nevertheless, I have a chance of curing it!” she says. “Everything is open.”

Can you estimate how well your children are coping with it now, the second time? It doesn’t matter that it’s the second time, they were too small for that the first time. I wouldn’t say it doesn’t bother them, it’s just stressful. But I think they’re handling it quite well. But that is also because we involved our entire environment right from the start. We told the school, the kindergarten and friends. Not because I wanted to share this with everyone. But I think it’s very important for the children that they have the opportunity to talk about everything wherever they feel welcomed and comfortable. And so the other person also has the chance to adjust to it and think about their answers. This doesn’t just happen at home, quite the opposite.

This is based on the old thesis: It takes a whole village, right? But at least!

The strain on the body and mind during chemotherapy is immense. How do you still manage to gain enough distance so that you can still talk about it and fulfill your role as a mother – and in the case of Princess Kate – in office? I haven’t seen the video, but I have read various articles about it.

How do you endure it when there is so much speculation about you? The good thing about not being Princess Kate is that, if in doubt, I can give up all roles. I learned this in the first therapy: This is not a decision, it happens all by itself. Especially when it happens to you for the first time. Suddenly you can’t even begin to fulfill a single role: neither as a mother, nor as a wife, nor as a colleague, nor anything else. You are so reduced to the last remnant that is still there that you have to deal with it first.

Now that I was sick again, I didn’t have to maintain anything; I already knew that. I was more stable in some respects because I knew: I had to try to maintain that. But the role of mother is actually not the first one. Not at all.

But rather self-preservation? Yes, exactly. The more strength I put into it and the better I succeed at it, the better I can be a mother or fill other roles.

What does your husband have to take care of or this whole “village” that you have inaugurated? They can’t replace a mother, can they? No, to be honest, my husband has to take on more than one person can do alone. This is actually not possible. But the reality is that the partner has to completely replace a second person. These are “little things” like shopping, driving children to hobby activities, cleaning and, and, and. Of course, that adds up, and he’s also working full time. Of course, the financial level is also part of it; he can’t say: “Then I’ll leave it alone and take care of the family.” This goes beyond the limits of a single person, it can only be done for a while. Accordingly, many people have to help: friends, relatives, neighbors. This all works pretty well, but that doesn’t change the fact that the partner is completely overstressed.

The interesting thing about the role of mother, which you give up a little bit, is that the children have to carry more weight than many other children. But: They also carry you along if you let them. You can really comfort me. At first you think it sounds so negative when you can no longer live out your role as a mother, but I think it fills up from the other side too. You can say, “Oh, but they’re children!”, but it creates something new that’s really good, even for the children. At least it feels good for us as a family! Even though they are still children, they can bring a lot to the table.

How does this show up? On really bad days, whether physically, mentally or emotionally, they can support me, comfort me or help me. Of course that’s not always the case, they have to be children again, but that helps us all a lot.

Children then often learn very quickly to be more independent. Is that the case in your family too? Definitely. You also depend on it. But that’s not necessarily negative. The space that you may have previously protected, even though it may no longer be necessary, then allows you to grow in a positive way.

You have three daughters, so there’s probably a lot of hair to braid, right?Absolutely! And having lots of discussions about the need to dress!

Do your children like your book? Yesss! But that doesn’t mean they’re easy to watch.

Has it already been translated? Then you could send it to the palace…No, but that’s a good idea! Pass this on!

Do you have the feeling that your children are experiencing the same fate as you? To understand the book, it is probably good to know that I experienced something similar as a child because my dad also had cancer. I actually know this from both sides, not just from this mom-adult perspective. What’s important to me, especially from a child’s perspective, is that you can find a space for all the dark feelings. I think it’s great if the book is unpleasant, which is exactly what it’s supposed to be. When you look at a book like this together, you can experience sadness together or not be able to continue reading. That’s what it’s there for.

What was it like for you as a child? We didn’t talk about it as openly as we both do. This left a lot unsaid. I didn’t have much space to deal with it, but I didn’t want to open it because I felt it was overwhelming my parents. In the past, such big emotional chunks simply weren’t brought to the table, so rarely did anyone say that they felt bad. But maybe it would have been good, I wish!

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