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Other peoples reactions to my cancer diagnosis
14 Posts
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 🙏🏻
5 Replies
204 Posts

@YEG-Heather ,

The reactions to my most recent cancer diagnosis threw me for a loop too. I found out right before Xmas of 2018 that I had breast cancer and was going to have a mastectomy on Jan 4th. There were a handful of people I needed to tell. I told about 5, then stopped after I had two or three of them say “Oh No! You just ruined my Xmas!” I was like you, I needed to focus on getting through it, not handholding other people who were not liking their Xmas. I had no Xmas at all as I was told not to get a cold or flu as they would cancel my surgery. So I hibernated at home not seeing anyone.

I think unless someone has been through cancer themselves they just don’t seem to have a clue what to say or do. Now over 2 years later, if I run into someone who says they haven’t seen me for a while, I tell them my story. After the fact they seem to be able to deal with it as I am still here and looking normal to them.

So my advice would be to tell those people who need to know, family, close friends, those who will be your support system.

4 Posts

Hi YEG-Heather,

I can absolutely relate to your experiences. I've had cancer for about 20 years now and I think I've seen pretty much every reaction under the sun. You will see old friends disappear, not because they are uncaring but just because they are afraid, and you will see new friends emerge from the most unlikely places. And this is okay, it's nothing to be angry or sad or fearful about, it's simply showing you how capable each person is in handling this kind of stuff.

First of all you need to know that you are under no obligation whatsoever to tell anybody unless you really want to. Second, you are in no way responsible for other people's feelings or emotions. This might seem harsh (and I don't mean it that way), but if people want to lean on you and expect you to make them feel better then you should maybe let them go very lovingly in that moment. That doesn't mean you have to cut them out of your life of course, but you can just gently say something like “Sorry to give you these negative news, I just wanted you to know, but you don't have to worry about me and at this point I don't have the energy to worry about you”. I have learned that most people are very uncomfortable talking about cancer and they simply don't know what to say so they fall back on the old “You are so strong, I'm sure you'll be okay”. Let it go. They are simply afraid because it reminds them that they, too, are mortal and that it could happen to them: they just don't know what else to say. In the end, you will likely end up with just a few friends that can handle seeing you sick and that are able to stick with you. And that's okay, that's all you really need.

For myself, I have my husband and a few very close friends that I know I can really lean on and that I can be weak with. I know they can carry me. Then I have a sister that I'm always honest with but don't burden with my emotional stuff because I know she can't handle it. Same with my kids - they know all the facts but I am very careful not to burden them with my emotions. I want them to be able to live their lives with a minimum of fear for me. And then I have all kinds of support people in my life that I can turn to when I need help. So, you see, you will learn to deal with people in different ways, always according to what you need and what they are capable of.

I hope that helped a bit. I wish you the very best!

28 Posts

Hi! I too have struggled with who to tell and how. What has worked for me is that I have used e-mail for all except my immediate family. This way the people I share the news with have time to absorb it and I did not have to see their immediate reactions. I explained in the message that this method was best for me to communicate the news.

Some folks replied immediately while others took a few days. Most followed my cue and replied via email. This gave me the opportunity to read them when I was feeling up to it (even email responses triggered a lot of emotions in me) and process their responses.

This may not work for you but I thought I’d share it just in case.

All the best!

Roy L.
529 Posts

@YEG-Heather This is a great question and a very personal one. When my dad was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma he didnt want to tell anyone but myself (I was his caregiver) and my sister. He would not tell anyone and would get very angry if we told anyone, would not tell his own brother. When he landed in the hospital and was very ill, I had no choice but to let people know what was going on. Some people understood, some were very angry with me. My uncle hasn't spoken to me since my dad passed 5 years ago, I was only following his wishes.

When I was diagnosed in Dec 2018 with Prostate Cancer I also kept it mostly to myself at first because I did not know how bad it was, it took months to get all the tests done and then found out I had Advanced PCa. I decided at that time I could not live with myself if someone I knew came to me and said they had Advanced PCa and didnt know it could happen.

I quickly became an advocate for men to get tested to catch the cancer early instead of too late like me. I think some might be tired of me talking about PCa. I know many men who will not talk about it even to the males in their family and that tends to make me angry. It is however a very personal choice, I understand both sides of the issue. I too have had some friends disappear, but I have found almost everyone to be very supportive to me and also to my kids.

I think all we can do is be honest with people and ourselves about our situation, talk to people who we feel comfortable with. The rest, well see ya!

I wish you all the very best. Cheers.



423 Posts

We did things a bit different than most. I was first told I had a mass in my left lung ( E. R. ) visit. We simply informed family and friends of this then started a Facebook page and invited those same family and friends to join. This way we keep them all informed all at the same time. We eliminated phone calls, which always left my wife in tears and we can convey things there that would be impossible on the phone. I also glean a lot of support from our posts. Hope this helps 😊

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