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Who to Tell About Your Cancer?

Finding Comfort in an Uncomfortable Situation

Who should you tell about your cancer diagnosis? Finding out you have cancer can be overwhelming for you, as well as your friends and family. People often don’t know what to say. They may feel sad and uncomfortable and might be afraid of upsetting you. For generations, finding effective cancer treatment was so rare. Many friends and family members might be frightened about the possibility of losing you.

Sometimes, people find it easier to say nothing because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. Some people find it easy to talk, while others may become overly careful or act too cheerful. They may take pains to avoid mentioning anything to do with health at all, at a time when you may need to seek out the comfort of friends and family.


How Do You Feel About Your Cancer Diagnosis?

You most likely will have many different emotions as you learn more about your diagnosis. The fear and uncertainty may level out once you begin to learn about treatment options. It is normal to wonder, “Why me?” or to feel sad, angry, or afraid. All of these are valid questions and emotions for someone with a cancer diagnosis.

Physical and chemical changes from the treatment or the cancer itself can also affect your emotions. These are very real side-effects that can sometimes be difficult to understand. The cancer diagnosis can bring a variety of physical, mental, and emotional changes to light.

The first step is to admit to yourself how you feel. It is okay to let yourself feel the way you do. This validation of your personal feelings will assist you in talking with others about your cancer diagnosis and their reactions.


Getting Ready to Talk with Others

It is extremely rare that a person with cancer will choose to go through the experience alone. There is probably at least one person or more with whom you wish to share the news. However, do not feel rushed or pressured into divulging your diagnosis. Friends and family will respond differently to what you share with them and how you share it. Getting ready to talk with others may take some time to prepare.

Only you can decide when to tell your friends and family that you have cancer. People are very sobered by the news that someone has cancer. Most people need and want to talk to someone when they find themselves in this kind of situation.

For single people without supportive family members nearby, it may be even more important to let close friends know what is happening. Think ahead so you can tell them what they can do when they ask how they can help. People who live alone often have a few extra needs, compared to those who live with others.


Adjusting to This New Reality of a Cancer Diagnosis

Sometimes, telling those closest to you helps you with the reality of what is happening. People find that by talking, they begin to solve problems and think about other issues as their family and friends ask questions. Beyond problem solving, talking with others provides an opportunity to share honest feelings, where others may feel empowered to share their own experience with cancer.

It may help to take note of any important discussions you have with friends and family, especially if they share information that you feel is important or raises any questions you can ask the doctor. Depending on your relationship with those you tell, you may want to set some ground rules or boundaries on future discussions. Deciding how and when to talk about your cancer, treatments, or other supports can help empower your experience in a more positive way.


How Much Information to Share?

Think about how much you want to share. You might want to explain what kind of cancer you have, which treatments you might need, and your outlook (or prognosis). Speak as best as you can from a base of knowledge, which you can obtain from your doctor’s office, online resources, or the local cancer society. Depending on the type of cancer or treatment, you may be able to share informative literature or brochures.

If a friend or family member asks a question you cannot answer, write it down. Be honest and tell them that the experience is on-going, and there will be plenty of questions along the way. As mentioned earlier, as you talk with others, you may want to write down the questions that come up. These are the questions you can discuss later with your cancer care team.


Prepare Yourself for Reactions—Your Own and from Others

Being on the receiving end of cancer news can be difficult to handle and may cause dramatic reactions in yourself and others. Your discussion with your doctor and other health professionals who work with cancer on a regular basis may go smoothly. Talking with friends or family may elicit entirely different reactions. It may be wise to prepare yourself for who you tell and to think ahead to any possible reactions they may have.

You know your friends and loved ones best, and some may be better equipped than others to hear the news. You may want to plan ahead as to where you share the news, whether it is at home over coffee or out on a park bench where you might have a private conversation. Bring along tissues or water to share to help bring ease to what you have to say. Remember to breathe and take time to accept the words you share in conversation to achieve some level of comfort.

You may also choose to speak with the caring team at Second to Nature about sharing news about your cancer. We are here to help educate and support individuals going through the experience of breast cancer. Our industry connections may provide you with beautiful encouragement and practical solutions, so reach out to us anytime.


Second to Nature is dedicated to education and empowerment of persons experiencing breast cancer before and after surgery. We are located in the Woodhaven Office Park, at 5450 Peters Creek Road, Roanoke, VA. Call for an appointment at (540) 366-2711 or use our convenient contact form. Follow us on Facebook to stay up to date with the latest news and specials.