The holiday season is about to begin and that means you will probably be getting together with family and friends. This may be the first chance you have had to talk about your skin cancer diagnosis. You may want to tell everyone but be scared not only of the reaction of others but of how you will feel when you are sharing information. Deciding who and when to talk about your diagnosis is a private decision. Take these few weeks before the holiday season begins to think about how much information you are willing to share and who you want to tell. The following tips may help:
Decide Who You Want to Tell
You may not want to make a general announcement about your skin cancer but may want to share the news with a select few people. You may want to tell those you feel will be most supportive or those who need to know because you will rely on them for assistance when getting treatment.
A large family gathering may not be the best place to begin conversations about your cancer. You may be inundated with questions from relatives that you are not emotionally prepared to answer. Instead, you might want to have a quiet talk with a few relatives. The Canadian Cancer Society suggests havinga “private, quiet conversation. Turn off the TV, close the door and try to make sure you won’t be interrupted by other people or the telephone.”
Decide What You Want to Tell
You should have a basic idea of what information is appropriate to share. For example, you might want to talk about what your diagnosis is, what the prognosis is, what treatments are available. There are many different types of cancer and most people will jump to conclusions based on their experience without additional information. Letting them know at least a little of the specifics will help ease their mind. It is usually best to discuss the cancer after you have talked with your doctor and have decided on a course of treatment. Give a little information at a time and make sure your friend or family member understand what you have said before giving additional information.
Talk About Your Fears
When talking about your cancer, let your friends and relatives know how you feel. Share your fears and your anxieties about the unknown and the future. Explain that you are worried about how your cancer, and the treatment you need, will impact your family, especially your spouse and children. Talking about your fears can help you better deal with your situation.
** Learn From the Conversations**
Try to answer as honestly as possible to the questions your friends and relatives may have. But be honest if you don’t know the answer to their questions. You may want to keep a notebook and write down the questions you can’t answer. These are good areas to talk to your doctor about.
Explain What You Need
Your family and closest friends are going to be a great source of comfort and assistance when you are dealing with your cancer and undergoing treatment. Be forthright in talking about what you need and how they can help you. You will not be able to get the help you need unless you are specific when asking for help.
Be Prepared for Different Reactions
Everyone you tell about your cancer may react in a different way. Some will say exactly the right thing to you, others will suddenly treat you as if you are going to die in the next few days or avoid you because they don’t know what to say or are having a hard time dealing with the news. Some may not know what to say and will remain silent, being afraid to say the wrong thing and upset up. Being honest about how you feel helps others to be honest in return.
You may find it helpful to have someone who already knows about your diagnosis with you when talking to friends or relatives to help explain information and to offer emotional support. You can also ask someone to be your “spokesperson” keeping people up to date and letting them know about your progress so you are constantly inundated with questions and can take time to rest and recover from treatments.
“Talking with Friends and Relatives About Your Cancer,” Reviewed 2011, may 23, Staff Writer, American Cancer Society
“Telling People About a Cancer Diagnosis,” Modified 2010, June 8, Staff Writer, Canadian Cancer Society
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.