How to Tell a Loved One That You Have Cancer

Having a cancer diagnosis can be an overwhelming and fearful experience. I remember not wanting to talk about it to anyone. My husband was given strict orders to tell no one of my illness. I was scared, did not want anyone’s sympathy, and feared that people would treat me differently. By saying the words out loud, it would make the cancer seem more real.

However, there are numerous reasons to share your cancer diagnosis. Cancer is too big a deal and scary to deal with alone. Knowing about your illness allows people to give you needed support. Once I began to talk about my cancer diagnosis, I welcomed the kind words and acts of kindness from friends and family. The following are some recommendations and my experiences for when you feel ready to share the news.

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Find the right time and place

The news should be shared in a calm, controlled manner. You may want to do it somewhere private, where the person can react. My most difficult task was to tell my loving adult son. We are very close, and I knew the news that I had cancer would be very painful. I chose to tell my son calmly, in a non-rushed manner, in my living room when we were alone. We were both able to react, cry, support, and hug each other. It is not something I would ever want to do again.

Be honest

Although I felt overwhelmed, and not sure how he would react, I decided to be honest. I was unsure of the words to use but wanted my son to be informed.

Maintain relationships

Try to keep your relationship with friends or family strong. Hard times are when you need each other the most. Let them know that you still want them in your life. When you feel up to it, make plans to enjoy their support.

Considerations for speaking to children

It is important that a young child know that it is not their fault that a family member has cancer and that no one can “catch cancer”.1 The child may feel angry, scared and sad. Stress that the family will work together to cope, and that the child will be taken care of. You may want to focus on how your cancer will affect the child’s daily routine and emphasize that the child will always be loved.1

Let people in

Try not to hide from the world. My first thought was to avoid friends and family. I initially did not want to talk about my disease. I soon learned that by letting people in, I opened myself to receiving more help and support.

Telling your loved ones about your disease can be a difficult task. I have found the above suggestions useful and hope, when you are ready, they will support you as well.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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