How to Tell a Loved One You Have Cancer

Dealing with a new and life changing diagnosis is a difficult process. It is a more difficult journey to attempt to go through it alone. It it crucial to tell your loved ones that you have cancer. Each person will not be ready for the news. The reality, is the sooner you tell them, the better.

Simple things that you must NOT do! DO NOT tell someone you have cancer over the phone. DO NOT text, tweet, change your Facebook status, etc. Cancer is very personal. Below are a few suggestions to make the process easier;

1. Decide to share the news when you are ready. Some family members will take the news of your cancer better than others. They may not know how to take the news at first, so be prepared for any reaction.

2. Don’t simply tell them you have cancer. Sit them down and explain to them exactly what type it is and what your treatment options are. Be as honest and open as you can with the people who are closest to you and are likely to be caring for you. They are your support system and the more information they have the better they can help you. Let them know that you need their love and support more than ever and tell them ways that they could help you during your cancer treatments.

3. Telling children can wait until you have a complete picture of your diagnosis and can talk to them in a calm, controlled way. Although you shouldn’t hide your emotions from your children approaching the situation in a hysterical fashion will disturb them. Often your doctor can help you explain to children what to expect. (I’ll speak more about this in another post.)

4. Remember it may not be appropriate to tell the gory details to every person you meet. What may be appropriate to tell your best friend is unlikely to be suitable for a 6 year old child. Your friends and loved ones may not understand the medical terminology or lingo you are using. Break your news into understandable and simple terms. Be compassionate yet direct.

5. Dying is such a personal experience, many people are afraid to intrude and don’t come forward even though they are willing to help. Don’t expect people to second guess when you want support. Tell them and they will almost certainly be there for you. As hard as it may be, be prepared for inappropriate responses such as laughter or stupid comments, adverse reactions or a complete inability to cope.

6. Don’t tell them you have cancer over the phone or by email. If at all possible, tell them in person. It may seem easier to let them know without being face to face, but it is something very important. Important news should always be shared in person, especially when you are telling your family that you have cancer.

by Nicole Allwein


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