Dr. Chaudhri, who has been battling Stage 3 ovarian cancer, decided to tell her 6-year-old she was dying.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on May 17, 2021. It has since been updated.
Dr. Nadia Chaudhri was widely praised on Twitter after she did something no mother should ever have to do. Say a potential goodbye to their child. Chaudhri, who battled Stage 3 ovarian cancer, broke it to her 6-year-old son that she was dying from cancer. Chaudhri had been seeking treatment for ovarian cancer and underwent a hysterectomy and several rounds of chemotherapy only to find out that the cancer had returned. The 43-year-old was a neuroscientist and a professor from Montreal, Canada. "Once ovarian cancer returns, it’s considered a terminal diagnosis," said Chaudhri, reported Good Morning America. "There is no treatment. You’re just buying time."
After learning of the terminal diagnosis, her first thoughts were of her 6-year-old son. She decided the best way forward was, to be honest with him. "My husband and I made the decision that we needed to tell our son what is going on because all the treatments are failing me," said Chaudhri. "He already knew that I had cancer. He knew that I was still taking chemotherapy medication and trying to get better, but I don’t think he had a sense of how bad it is."
I love it! Thank you 🙏🏼— Dr. Nadia Chaudhri (@DrNadiaChaudhri) May 14, 2021
Chaudhri had decided to tell her son but wasn't emotionally prepared for it. She woke up in tears on the day and felt "completely devastated." She turned to Twitter, using it as an outlet for her grief. She wrote, "Today is the day I tell my son that I’m dying from cancer. It’s reached a point where he has to hear it from me. Let all my tears flow now so that I can be brave this afternoon. Let me howl with grief now so that I can comfort him."
Our hearts broke. We cried a lot. And then the healing began. My son is brave. He is bright. He will be okay. And I will watch him grow from wherever I am. Today was the hardest day of my life. Thank you for all for your love. pic.twitter.com/sCZFW9d8T5— Dr. Nadia Chaudhri (@DrNadiaChaudhri) May 11, 2021
She had friends and family on Twitter and kept them updated on her situation but this time it was different. It wasn't just her inner circle checking on her. Thousands of people sent heartwarming messages and lauded her for having the conversation. "It really seemed to strike a nerve," said Chaudhri. "A lot of people have written to me unsolicited and told me how important it was that their parents had that conversation and they assured me how they turned out fine, or they told me about situations where they didn’t have the conversation and how dreadful that was."
I am flooding my Sun with presents. Anything that will remind him of Mama. Today as he left the hospital he said ‘see you tomorrow, although you might also be dead.’ That hurt until I realized he knew I wasn’t coming home from this hospital visit. pic.twitter.com/jP4QKTN1vV— Dr. Nadia Chaudhri (@DrNadiaChaudhri) September 16, 2021
Many shared their own experiences while a few others shared advice on how best to go about it while sharing the news with her son. Some of those who had lost their parents recounted how they were told, or not told about their parent's condition. "My mother was this honest with me about her cancer when I was your son's age. Her honesty and courage have had a lasting effect on me and those around her," wrote Ryon Graf on Twitter.
Tell him all of your favorite things! When my mother passed away recently. I forgot to ask her what was her favorite color? I had an idea but didn't come from her. I wish I would have asked her that simple question. Sobbing as type this. 😭— By Design ☕ (@PardonMePleez) May 12, 2021
Another person suggested things she should do to support and help him in the future. "Make videos for his future special days (graduations, weddings, first job, first break up) so he’ll be able to continue to feel your love, wisdom, sympathy, and pride," wrote Ryan on Twitter.
Chaudhri sought help from a close friend who is also a psychologist, to decide what was the best way to deliver the heartbreaking news to her son. She finally opened up to her son about it. "One of the things my son said was, ‘I wish I didn’t know. I wish you hadn’t told me,'" said Chaudhri. "We said, 'We have to tell you because you’re part of the family and we didn’t want you to have a bad surprise. We wanted to give you the chance to ask your questions and talk about it and feel things with us, as a family.'" Chaudhri added that she was glad to have done it and said her son, who she didn't want to be named, had understood what it meant. Chaudhri said: "it was the hardest conversation I’ve ever had."
Chaudhri also helped others prepare for the moment, hoping to help them to a point where there's acceptance, rather than shock when it happens. "I know it’s going to be a shock and it’s going to be sad but I’m trying to help get everybody to a place where it can be more of a celebration of my life and less of a shock of my death, and my son is part of that," she said. Chaudhri moved from Pakistan to the U.S. at age 17 to attend college. She has also started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to allow young scientists to be able to continue the research she was doing on drug addiction. The campaign has raised over $217,000. Chaudhri's emotional post is yet another reminder to each one of us to hold our loved ones close and tell them what they mean to us.
Nadia Chaudhri passed away on October 5, 2021, more than a year after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.