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Other peoples reactions to my cancer diagnosis
Hi all 🖐️
i was wondering how you deal with telling others about your diagnosis? I dread telling anyone as the reactions can be so emotionally draining.
I don't have the energy to consol the highly emotional people right now. I know their feelings are valid but I can't be the one to make them feel better each time. My goal is to stay positive.

I have had the whole cross section of reactions. Some have been amazing, some have just disappeared, some have just completely broken down.
I understand its a hard thing to hear... I know ... I'm living it. I feel bad when i set my boundaries ... I do it in the kindest way ... I keep telling myself it's not my job to ensure everyone else is ok with my cancer.

Advise... Wisdom from those that have navigated this... Please and thank you 🙏🏻
8 Replies
7040 Posts
YEG-Heather‍ hi there!!!! I've read here what some people do is send out a mass email (it maybe not as personal) but you can tell whomever you want to tell on your list and tell whatever you want to tell without having to answer questions or deal with reactions. You can keep people updated regularly on your treatment and how you are doing with weekly mass emails. That way ,you dont have to keep repeating the same thing to so many different people. Whomever you feel closer to you can call or divulge more info to....but at this time,you need to take care of YOU, not others reactions. So do whatever you think is best and take care of yourself.
631 Posts

Hi @YEG-Heather

@Brighty has suggested some very useful ways to inform others and dealing with their reactions.

Yes, definitely deciding what to say and to whom can really get the roller coaster of emotions going and, like most new experience, diagnosis and treatments bring with them changes in how we relate. It can be hard for many of us because we want to spare others the stress of being told and we certainly do not need any extra stress. Please remember that you are the important one during this time and your primary focus must be on recovery. Obviously certain people we care for are important to inform and perhaps you might want at this stage to share how they can best help you. Feeling helpless when someone you care about has cancer is very understandable and often knowing how to help channels that emotion. Be honest about your needs while acknowledging that others are concerned.

We are here and certainly understand. 🌸.

Healing hugs.


631 Posts

@YEG-Heather Hi again from MCoaster.

I found that often real support and understanding came from unexpected sources while some of those who I thought might understand did not. Sometimes people do not know what to do or say while caring deeply and just need to be guided in how to be supportive. Others may just “disappear” as you say and you will know who your real friends are. 🤗

1200 Posts

@YEG-Heather Hello…..oh my, what a HOT topic….I too can relate….

At a time, when you need the most support….yes, some will find the local Highway….some will support you….some will have no clue “what to do”…..you are not the caregiver of “them”…please save your energy for “your recovery !”. Period.

I do like the idea of the mass email….simple, time smart and more…..easier on you; and that is all that matters. Some people say the “darndest things”…and end up being hurtful (to you). Do set up boundaries; very smart idea……

I had a lady ask me, point blank “Hey, what stage are you?”…..I responded I am unsure…..NOT…..aka not your business, at that point in time. I found sharing only with those whose comfort, to me, was bar-none, were the ones who I cried to, who I called with a good test result….

On a positive note…..a lady from work….who I did not know well….had some “heard” that I was on medical leave….she dropped off, at my front door, a home made pie !! and wrote, simply, feel better, and left her phone number. Today; we are terrific friends.

in time, you will “find”, who is a true, friend….at-the-ready. You will also find, those who are not up-to-snuff. And, some, you simply cannot “find”. (stop looking !)

Share what you wish; to whom you wish.



(I wish you , only the best Heather)

263 Posts


great question!

I didn't tell a whole lot of people initially, feb 2020--I hate the emotional stuff and I am sort of a private person. also, I didn't post anything on social media, tho I do have a great friend who is working thru his amazing cancer story who posts very regularly about his situation and he says he gets great comfort from the outpouring of support that way.

I then started my treatments just as COVID started and so I was basically isolated throughout the whole thing!

of course my team at work knew and my family got group emails, but honestly due to the pandemic I really didn't have to disclose much.
and then poof!!!, I was done treatments; I look the same, (OK I've gained a few pounds thanks to my self imposed pizza/gin therapy--ha ha), and I went back to work and now in #yeg I am slowly getting out & about like everyone else is…..so lots of people haven't got a clue what my story is---and that is fine with me. to be clear it's not that I don't want folks to know or that it's a secret, it would just seem weird to me to now bring it all up????

you can control the amount of your information that others have. if you, like my friend, get some comfort from sharing then more power to ya….I will smash that like button every time I see you post. do what makes you feel comfortable, and realize that things can change as you move along……



PS- how about this #yegwx lately….sheesh…….

740 Posts

@YEG-Heather this is such a good discussion and for each person it may be different. I agree with the others that have posted, that right now everything really is all about you and what you need to complete treatment and cope with your cancer diagnosis.

In the beginning, I told only a few close friends and family about my breast cancer diagnosis. My close friend, who is also a nurse, went with me for my call back for another mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. My husband had to go away on business and wasn't available. When I found out that day that I had cancer, my friend brought me home and said “wherever this leads she will be with me every step of the way”. And she did just that. My husband hates all things medical and so it was great to have her attend all my appointments with us. She was my person. She was my husband's person. When I was ready, she communicated my diagnosis to my co-workers and other mutual friends and asked that all requests for information go through her. When my second diagnosis of ovarian cancer came just a few months later, she still stood by me (even though I told her I wouldn't blame if she ran the other way). So if you have a “person" this could be a great role for them to play. It took a lot of pressure off of me and worked incredibly well.

When I was facing the second diagnosis of ovarian cancer, I finally did relay on Facebook what was happening. I was glad I finally did this and was overwhelmed by the love an support. If you don't want to broadly post on social media, you could create a group of a trusted friends and it is a great way to keep people update as well as send you encouraging messages.

I chose to not allow people who I knew were generally negative about most things as part of my circle.

It is hard, but you will find the right balance along the way. Sometimes, we have to come to terms with things ourselves before we are ready to share with others.

We are always here to support you.

50 Posts


I like everyone's replies to you and find them to be true.

My diagnosis came 9 days after I had been given custody of a newborn baby through kinship. I had left work expecting to be on parental leave, and that was communicated to my co-workers. I ended up changing that to sick leave\LTD…so only the management knew, with the exception of a very few co-workers that I considered good friends.

I chose to only tell a few family members that needed to know, as I hoped for their support. I was having trouble processing my diagnosis - was still processing the new surprise baby. I really feared negative, emotional feedback from people. I knew that I couldn't waste my energy on that.

When I told my MIL, who has a negative view of the world, I said quite clearly ‘I need to tell you something and I don’t want you to react. I have cancer and it means surgery and treatment. I need your help with the kids' When she started to go on about how unfair life is…I just nipped her off and said ‘I don’t want to hear it and just need help with the kids'. (In all fairness, she has been caregiver for several people until the end and probably has PTSD from it.)

You have to look after your own emotions, not worry about others, although I know how it is not to want to cause other people worry.

I had some very strange, unsupportive reactions from people…that could have added to my emotional turmoil…but I had to make the decision to shut down that valve. Also, as many people will note here…some people just disappear…which is super hurtful but we understand that this is their shortcoming, not ours. You find out about people you thought were there and hopefully, you will be amazed by people who you never expected to stand with you. I was lucky to have such an amazing friend.

I found, though, by wanting to be super positive for my own mind-body connection - I probably turned away some support. My first family (Dad, and adult siblings) still do not know that I had Stage 3. I relished in the fact that I remained strong and felt fairly well, throughout the surgery recovery plus chemo. So, I may have got more support if I had, in fact, asked for it.

Best wishes to you.


23 Posts

@YEG-Heather hi there! I have read most of the other replies and they seem to fit my experience as well. I had breast cancer 23 years ago and tonsil cancer 3 years ago. I hate having To update people with what is goingon with doctors, tests and treatments. It’s tiring and very upsetting to me. Didn’t do facebook when I had breast cancer but this last time I posted a gun pointing at a virus and spelled out cancer in caps. That’s how I got it out. i had people disappear from my friend list and I had people who I never would have expected concern from give it to me. Just like everyone else wrote. Now I have an issue from radiation damage and have to go to different doctors and more tests and I just don’t want to deal with the updates period.I guess we are all different. I hope you are ok. are You just starting your treatments? Take care.

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