Monday, 8 July 2013

Who do you tell........and when?

Getting a cancer diagnosis comes as a shock to anyone and it can sometime take some time to fully come to grips with the news.

Most people have close family and friends and once you yourself have adjusted to the news then comes the decision of who to tell and often more importantly, when!

I told no one, other than my husband about my cancer diagnosis until after my hysterectomy. My Consultant told me he was 99.9% sure he could remove it all during surgery so I figured there was no need to tell anyone about the cancer if it could be removed. However, when the pathology results came back and it showed that there were cancer cells still present, then I had to decide who to tell.

My parents and siblings came top of the list. It was hard to tell my parents as they are both elderly and come from an era when a cancer diagnosis often meant death so it was hard trying to convince them that I would be ok. No parent wants to think that their child is going to die before they do.

I decided to be totally open about my diagnosis with friends. I live on a small island and felt it was better to be open about my cancer rather than have the rumours spreading. As it turned out I was the only one on the island with womb cancer at the time - sadly I don't think that's the case anymore.

Some cancer patients find it hard to decide when or even if, to tell their loved ones about their diagnosis. Our lives become thrown into chaos by the news and we feel as though we've lost control. Sometimes hanging onto something we can control, like who we tell, saves us from going under.

People have different reasons for not telling; maybe they don't want people to worry about them; maybe they fear loosing their job; maybe they have a son or daughter just starting Uni; or a grandchild on the way. There are so many reasons.

Sometimes patients don't want to tell anyone because they simply don't believe it themselves; they are often struggling with getting their head around the news of the diagnosis. A good Consultant should be aware of the possibility of this and ask their patients how they will explain their cancer to others, to make sure they understand the situation fully.

Keeping such a diagnosis quiet, a secret from those who love and care for us, is something that need not happen because its precisely at that time of diagnosis that we need the support of those we love.

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