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Finding the right words when faced with a difficult situation can be daunting. No one wants to say the wrong thing or cause further pain or stress. Breaking the news of a cancer diagnosis to loved ones can be especially overwhelming.
There’s no single reaction to expect, making it even more difficult to prepare for an already tough conversation. But there’s also no right or wrong way to handle the situation. It’s most important to create a good support system around you during such a difficult time.
Preparing to Break the News
It’s entirely up to you to decide when you’re ready to reach out to your friends and family to explain your cancer diagnosis. Though there’s no set process to follow, it might be helpful to consider the following.
Let yourself feel: The American Cancer Society suggests you first reflect on how you’re feeling about your diagnosis. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotion you’re experiencing, whether it’s anger, fear, or sadness. Being open with yourself and your loved ones will ultimately create a better line of communication and support.
Consider who you want to tell first: In general, people typically tell their spouses and children about their diagnosis first. But for those who may be single or live far from family, sometimes reaching out to their close-knit friends for support can be the first step.
Decide how much you want to share: It’s important to consider how much information you feel comfortable sharing, like your course of treatment or your prognosis. Don’t feel like you have to share every detail with every person in your life. It can become draining to have the same conversation repeatedly with family and friends about what you’re going through. Trying to create a plan with information you want to explain and questions your loved ones may have could make the process easier to handle.
If you’re still unsure where to begin, you can also seek assistance from someone who has faced this situation before. Hearing how they approached such a difficult conversation could help you feel more comfortable and prepared.
Telling Your Friends and Family
When it comes down to actually telling your loved ones, you simply have to figure out what works best for you. There’s no “correct” way to go about informing them of your cancer, and you may find you approach various friend groups and family members differently with the news. As you go through the process, it might be helpful for you to consider the following points.
Check for triggers: Take mental note of any aspects in conversation that might trigger you or make you feel especially uncomfortable. If you become overwhelmed or don’t want to talk about a particular topic right then, feel free to change the subject.
Know your limits: Suggest meeting up another time. You don’t have to cram everything into one conversation or feel like you have to answer every question they might have about your cancer.
Consider the audience: When it comes to determining how to talk to your children about your cancer diagnosis, consider how much detail you should provide based on their age. Tell them the truth in a way they’ll understand. Creating an open dialogue will allow them to trust you and feel comfortable coming to you with any questions they might have and expressing their feelings about what’s happening.
Seek help when you need it: It might even be beneficial to look into a support group for your children or family to better cope with the situation.
Keeping Everyone Informed
Once everyone is aware of your diagnosis, they’ll want to stay informed on how you’re doing. The American Cancer Society suggests letting your loved ones even do some research on their own. They can find out more about what you’re going through, as well as some tips on how to better support you. Using a website or even a dedicated social profile like Facebook can be a great way to keep everyone on the same page without draining yourself. You can maintain control over how much detail you feel comfortable divulging without having the same phone call or meet up each week.
Cancer is a very personal journey. There’s no right or wrong way to interact with your loved ones about your diagnosis, just like there’s no one way for them to react to the news. No matter how you choose to go about it, just remember you’re all doing the best you can in the moment. And that’s good enough.