As you think about about talking to others about your cancer, remember that:-
- Sharing your situation with family and friends gives them an opportunity to help and share their feelings with you.
- Although you may worry about upsetting others, keeping the diagnosis to yourself can isolate you. Telling those closest to you can share the worry as most people do care and want to be there for you.
- People react differently to difficult news. There may be some who don't know what to say. They may need some time to adjust.
- Do what feels right for you and your situation, either at home or at work.
When should I tell people?
Only you will know when it feels right to talk with your family and friends about your cancer. You may find you need to process the news yourself, before telling others. It can help to think about what you will say. Telling them about your type of cancer, and the treatment plan is a good place to start. It’s something practical to focus on.
Family and friends
People often start by telling those closest to them first. This may be your spouse or partner. Sometimes it’s hardest to talk to those closest to you.
It may be helpful to plan your conversation, with the help of a healthcare professional. You could talk with your specialist nurse or come into Maggie's and talk with one of our professional team.
You can then think about who else you want to tell - perhaps your close family and friends. Cancer conversations can be exhausting. You may find you’re having to repeat the same information to a variety of contacts. It may be easier to let someone close to you notify your wider circle of family and friends.
If you’re working, then letting your employers know can help extend your support network. Your employers (or tutors if you’re a student) can then be more flexible with working hours, and understand that your concentration may be affected.
Work colleagues don’t all need to know, but you may find it helpful to tell those that you work with most often. You can either tell them together, or individually - you’ll know what works best for you. Colleagues can be a good extra layer of support.
If you’re a parent, letting your child’s school or college know, can help the teachers support them at school. It will help the teachers understand if your child is withdrawn, acting differently or their work is affected.
Prepare a list of tasks that people might be able to help you with. Your friends and family may offer help, and it’s better to offer something specific that they can do. This might be either practical , such as transport, shopping, childcare, pet care or to meet up with for support and a chat.
You may also find you have lots of questions yourself about your cancer, which crop up in conversation with others. Write the questions down, and then you can ask your healthcare team.
Talking about cancer - your support
Some of the conversations you’re facing may feel very difficult. Sometimes, talking about your cancer with those closest to you can feel too painful. It can be easier talking to someone who isn’t directly affected and can offer support and advice.
This might be with a support group (locally or online), or cancer forums. You could drop into your local Maggie’s Centre and talk with one of our cancer support specialists. You can talk to others who are going through a similar experience.
If you’re finding the feelings stress around your cancer is affecting you day to day, then you may benefit from counselling. Your GP may be able to refer you for local counselling and our cancer support specialists and psychologists at Maggie’s can help.
I don’t feel like talking
Those closest to you may know you well, and recognise that you’re withdrawn or keeping your worries to yourself. If they mention their concerns to you, this can be the chance for you to open up. Sharing your thoughts and fears can give them an opportunity to listen, support you, and perhaps share their feelings too.
However, there may be days when you find that you want to talk about normal things. Your family and friends may not always realise this. Let them know that you’re still you, and you’d like to talk about other things apart from the cancer for while. Explain to them that you'll talk about your cancer when you’re ready.
Support for family and friends
If you’re a family member or friend of someone with cancer, you'll be worried too. You may find talking with the person you care about difficult, or are not sure what to say. Finding support for you is important too. Maggie’s offers a listening ear, and space for you to talk through your concerns, with people who understand.