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How Do I Tell Loved Ones About My Cancer Diagnosis?

June 29, 2022

Each person responds to a cancer diagnosis differently. While some people are committed to remaining positive while adjusting to life with cancer, others feel shattered and even angry. Regardless of your reaction to the diagnosis, the critical matter of announcing you have cancer will consume your attention. When should you tell others? Who should you tell? How do you break the news to others? These are all stressful questions to answer, so you should give yourself time to find answers that are right for you.

Coming to Terms with Your Cancer Diagnosis

Before you delve too deeply into how to tell people you have cancer, it’s essential to come to terms with how you feel about the diagnosis. Understand that your feelings on the matter may swing dramatically. Some people may immediately tell at least one close confidant about the diagnosis for immediate support. This could help you cope with your initial thoughts and feelings. However, others prefer to allow the reality to set in on their own before they go through the motions of telling family and friends. This is a personal matter, so give yourself the freedom to walk through this stage on your terms.

What to Expect When You Tell Others About Your Diagnosis

Knowing what to say when someone tells you they have cancer is challenging. When you decide to break the news to others, you’ll undoubtedly receive various responses. Some people may simply be uncomfortably silent as they absorb the news. Others may tear up, and some may even be overly cheerful. Since knowing what to say when someone tells you they have cancer is difficult, you should be prepared for a wide range of responses.

Regardless of the initial response, you can expect many people to inquire about how you are feeling and what your prognosis is. It’s helpful to decide ahead of time how to answer these questions. For example, do you want to keep the specific details to a minimum or share as much as possible? The answer to this question may vary based on who you’re speaking with.

Deciding Who to Tell

Some people impulsively tell a spouse, a best friend, or someone else close to them as soon as they receive the news. However, regardless of whether you immediately confide in someone, there are many other people you may choose to share the news with over time. For example, there may be a few close friends you feel inclined to tell, but should you tell friends you don’t speak with regularly? Should you break the news on social media, in a small group setting, or privately with each person? Each person has a unique comfort zone in this area. Some people prefer to keep the matter relatively private, and others need the strong support of their entire network.

How to Tell Your Family You Have Cancer

When you consider how to tell your family you have cancer, it’s important to determine who to tell first. Your significant other may need to hear the news first, and children and other immediate family members may follow. Will you tell your children altogether or individually? Younger children may need to know you are sick, but older children may have many questions. You may also choose to tell extended family members about the diagnosis in a group or individually. Some people find it’s easier to share the news with a group of people all at once rather than go through the emotional turmoil of telling each person individually. Cancer affects families differently, so consider the most practical approach for your family dynamic and individual needs.

Announcing You Have Cancer to Friends and Co-Workers

You must also consider telling people you have cancer outside of your immediate and extended family. For example, will you tell a few close friends and ask them to share the news with others on your behalf? At work, you may choose to confide in a few close co-workers and your boss. However, if you have a smaller workplace, you may decide to let your boss announce the entire group. Again, you must decide how much detail you wish to share with these individuals. Both friends and co-workers may ask you how they can help. Before announcing you have cancer to others, consider how you might answer this question to get the extra help and support you may require around the house and in the workplace.

Seeking the Support You Need

You may be well-supported once you tell others about your diagnosis. However, some people may make comments or suggestions that are less than helpful. Personal and professional relationships can become more complex, which can be a source of additional stress for some individuals. With this in mind, remember that your healthcare providers are available to support you through this experience.

At Nashville Oncology, we believe that cancer treatment should be patient-centric and value-based. We strive to provide the best possible care to our patients, so they feel cared for and respected throughout every step of their cancer journey. Contact us to learn more about our personalized treatment plans and comprehensive cancer services.