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Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by Lacey_adminCCS on Feb 1, 2018 4:02 pm

Let’s Discuss….talking about cancer





There isn’t a right or wrong way to talk about cancer. Who you tell and how you talk about cancer may be different depending on your relationship with the person you're talking to. How did the conversation change based on whether you were talking to a co-worker, friend, spouse, or child? 


Before your own experience with cancer did you have a difficult time talking about cancer with someone who was diagnosed? What helped?

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by Lacey_adminCCS on Feb 1, 2018 4:06 pm

Can you all start us off?
jorola‍, ACH2015‍, Joe-Eddy‍, Dielle‍, MommaBear‍, Suzanne73‍, LisaKR‍, rainbowpromise‍, cancertakesflight‍, Lchalmers‍, Warriorprincess‍, Belanos‍, Princess Maura‍, ECCS Peer Support‍, MalcolmS‍, merry‍, beach boy‍, ashcon‍, DiDi‍, Pinky17‍, Yogi‍, sgt. pepper‍, LPPK‍, Ioana‍ 

ALL are welcome smiley

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by Lucky grandma on Feb 1, 2018 4:31 pm

Not sure how this works because I am new to this website.  My screen name is lucky grandma.
I didn't have trouble discussing cancer with close friends that had cancer because they were very candid talking about it so that put me at ease.  So now that I am recuperating from cancer surgery I try to be candid with people that know so I can make it comfortable for them.
However when I meet someone I don't know well but know they are on a cancer journey it is sometimes awkward because I don't know how much or what to say to then.

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by Gaylene on Feb 1, 2018 4:36 pm

Hello: I have never had an issue talking about cancer with friends or family as I lost my best friend when we were both in our 30’s and a nurse then told me how to deal with it. When I was diagnosed my sister was with me and we were shocked beyond believe that my colonoscopy showed cancer. The first person was my husband and he did deal with it well, just walked away. I then had to send a message to my daughter to contact me as she lives in China and that was difficult and three Skype calls later we were able to actually talk. She was beside herself and I had to calm her down and reassure her but made her promise not to contact her brother. Our son is in the military and he was on a course and I didn’t want it to interfere with this as he had exams to write which were important for his career. As soon as he got home I asked he and his wife to come in so I could tell them together but they were unable to find a sitter so he came in. He, needless to say, feel apart as we were all used to my husband being sick but I was the strong healthy one! To my friends Intold a lot of them at a meeting as we belong to a ladies group and I stated the facts and then said I would appreciate their support, set up a private email account and kept them updates through this rather than telling everyone the same story. I did this as well with ny nieces and nephews who are scattered across Canada and it worked out very well, hard on my family and sister as they read them all and filled everyone in, I was sheltered from it all. At this time we are dealing with my niece who has cancer for a second time, I am keeping in touch with her via the phone and Internet and letting the others know how she is doing, she knows we all care but saves her the calls as well. I have a friend who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer, she called because she knew I had been down this path and we have talked and I have helped her when telling others. I promised to be there for her and I will help her as much as she wants and needs. I find that people are more accepting of the cancer diagnosis and they themselves deal with these revelations better than in the path, they don’t assume its a death sentence nor that you can catch it. Hope this is what you were expecting Lacey as I tend to ramble on.
Gaylene LeBlanc

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by cancertakesflight on Feb 1, 2018 5:12 pm

I was very open discussing my cancer once I had a diagnosis, but I operated on a need to know basis when I was going for tests. My husband knew what was going on because he took me to all my appointments, so he needed to know. I told certain people at work because they were impacted by me having to miss work. I didn't tell my children or my parents. I figured that I wouldn't worry them until I knew there was anything to worry about. My parents live in another city, so I don't see them all the time. I even went to the big family gathering at Christmas and acted like everything was normal. Three days later I went for a biopsy. 

There was one person at work, who didn't need to know, but he kept asking me a lot of questions. I held out telling him as long as I could because it was really none of his business. Eventually I told him because he wouldn't leave me alone, and I felt so violated. I allowed him to take away my power to determine who I told and when.

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by wasagabeach on Feb 1, 2018 5:36 pm

When I was first diagnosed in 2005, I was shocked and disappointed. After meeting with the head of the Urology Department at Sunnybrook Hospital that all changed! The first thing he said to me was "that it was not my fault" and secondly "leave the cancer treatments with him and you! continue on with your life just like before". Here we are in 2018 and after 5 reoccurrances (most recent Jan.2018) my philosophy has not changed. My discussion about cancer was that simple and short, but very effective. I buy DR. Robert Nam a gift cetificate from LCBO every year and thank him for such good advice and saving my life. 

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by erinsgirl on Feb 1, 2018 5:41 pm

No, I have never had a problem with this. Part of the reason is because of my choice of career, but I guess I'm just that kind of person. The first time I really was faced with this was when my dad was diagnosed almost forty years ago. All I could really see was that he was just my dad and he was sick. My own experience was interesting in that people would not approach me about my diagnosis and that made me hesitant to bring it up.

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by sleepingangel on Feb 1, 2018 6:15 pm

At the best of times, it’s hard for me to discuss things but having gone through cancer already once,
now having it again, I find talking about it a bit easier. Telling my family in Australia was the hardest as I am the only one out of 8 of us living in Canada. My hubby has a lot of trouble talking about it. I know he just wants it to go away and make me better. I am giving him time to come to terms with my diagnosis. Friends??? Well, they are few and far between when you have cancer. That’s my experience, not sure about any of you. I have a few close friends that call and visit. My neighbours are there if I need anything.  I know I can talk to support at Sunnybrook if I need it which I did at Princess Margaret last time. So all in all, I talk to myself a lot about it in my head. I always give the right answers!

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by Joe-Eddy on Feb 1, 2018 7:18 pm

I too was very picky about who I was telling when I still was not sure, I did however like cancertakesflight and told my boss right away because he needed to know why I was taking all the time off during working hour. I also told the people that I work in the field with because they needed to know that my mind was going to be wandering and I would maybe not be as diligent as I usually am. My wife of course knew what was suspected and went through the agony of not knowing how bad with me. We did not tell any family members not even our two children until we knew exactly what it was and how we were going to deal with it. When we came back from the reveal visit the first call was to my 74 year old mother who by the way is a breast cancer survivor now 6 years. We then told our children 35 and 27, our son lives on his own as he should be at 35 but our daughter lives with us due to a disability. Now my son is just like me and it was all jokes about the exams and the tests but I could tell he was really worried, so I made sure to tell them exactly what I was told. I was not going to die from this and I would eventually be able to carry on life as normal. The new normal.My daughter was quite distraught because she has been exposed to cancer and it was not a happy ending. So her we treated very delicately and made sure she understood that daddy was not going to die but he was going to be sick for awhile and she would be called on to help out. I have received no less then 2 dozen hugs a day since she learned about it, I do not mind one bit. I have quite an extended family so I put it on Facebook one night and that is how everyone else found out.
You are absolutely right about not wanting to tell certain people at work or any where else in your life because you probably knew that they would not bee a support they would some how make it about them. Besides this is a very personal thing and if you do not want to tell someone you should not have to, it is unfortunate you were harassed about it. I hope this helps with the discussion. Cheers
Joe-Eddy Cancer Warrior

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by Fitnesslover on Feb 1, 2018 7:46 pm

Hello everybody,

when my doctor first told me I have cancer in September 2017 I was in shock.I never thought I will ever hear that word.All my life I did everything I could to have the healthiest lifestyle I could have.Exept the stress....for so many years I had so much strees in my life and in June 2016 I decided I was done with it,I left my husband and wanted to start a new life.My words to him were...I am done ,if I continue this I will get sick.
I first told my sister that very first day and some of my friends that knew I was called in the doctor ‘s office that evening.I cried that evening a lot.I thought my life was over.I was thinking why me?The next day each of my clients knew by just looking at my face.I always know almost everything about them.This time was them showing so much support and incouragement I cannot even explain.This helped me a lot.After two days I could talk about it without crying too much and started to think positive.
i had not have the heart to tell my daughter (11 years old) because she went through a lot this last yea r and a half and I told myself she will find out when I will have all the results of my tests and course of treatment.She knew I had the surgery and we talked about it but I couldn’t mention the word cancer.
I did the same with my parents just because they are not in Canada and my dad is on dialysis three times a week...I didn’t want to worry them before I knew more about it.
After the surgery,tests and finding out my treatment I told my parents and we talk about it now openly and positive.My daughter just found out and she was scared that something bad will happen to me and the next question was if she will get it.I told her we have to live healthy and happy and if it comes back we will deal with it but we cannot live in fear.I told her we have to live every day at the max and be happy.
i am almost done my radiation treatments and everything went better I expected .I am in peace saying I have cancer now .We will beat this and we just have to hope for the best.
good luck everyone 

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by Goodtogo on Feb 1, 2018 8:08 pm

I like this thread.... it’s helpful for newcomers for sure. For me, I told just my husband that I’d found a lump. We went through ALL the diagnostic stuff, including 2 surgeries & many consults, which took 7 weeks , BEFORE we told our adult children, two of whom were living at home but with obviously busy lives of their own. The “reveal” went well. Both sons living at home were shocked. They asked many, many intelligent questions and showered me with love. The call to my daughter in Ottawa was very difficult for her to hear. I made sure she was with her friends before I called. She went on to find a very caring former coworker who had experienced BC and was a great help to her. I told 2 close friends, my 5 sisters, & 1 sister-in-law. I abhor drama & I just live my life day to day without discussing my Cancer. I do not want to explain or discuss or get those pitiful looks ... I just carry on as normal. And it works for me. My friends & S-I-L have been excellent. Most people have their own personal trials... I do not want to burden. One day, I too will move on from this.

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by Warriorprincess on Feb 1, 2018 8:46 pm

At first I only told a few people, my immediate family, boss and a few friends. I was NOT ok talking about my cancer. If I spoke about it, it made it real. I was in denial for a while. Now, quite the opposite! I no longer fear the discussions. But like to add always have  hope and a never give up attitude . I have shared my story here as well as through social media . 
Compassion has no limit , kindness has no enemy

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by Vivid Colours on Feb 1, 2018 8:55 pm

Before I was diagnosed with cancer I had a really hard time dealing with anyone who had cancer. I didn't know what to say, I was uncomfortable, and awkward. I lost my birth mother to breast cancer and my MIL to pancreatic cancer when I was young and really didn't know where to put my feelings about losing them. As I lost other folks to cancer along the way I couldn't find my footing at all.  About 5 years ago two of my closest work friends were both diagnosed with breast cancer and I just about lost my mind. I ended up going to see a psychiatrist so I could get a handle on my feelings. 
When I was diagnosed the first person I was able to contact was my boss. She was great, we were both in shock and awe, but she was able to help me get through the first few minutes.  It  wasn't real, somehow I had crossed into an alternate universe, I struggled to breathe the air in this place, I was in flight mode.
Now, more than a year in on this journey, I don't have a problem talking about my cancer or discussing cancer with other folks. Of course, I have assembled my own support team made up of friends and professionals.  The more comfortable I am discussing my cancer the more comfortable everyone else seems to be with discussing my diagnosis and the fact that it is chronic and not cureable.
Vivid Colours

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by LPPK on Feb 1, 2018 10:00 pm

My husband has always been the first to know. Seven years ago I had a spot of melanoma removed from my arm.   No chemo or radiation was required.  I did not get around to telling my grown children for about 1.5 months, I was still coming to terms with having had cancer,  and when they noticed the healing scar they were very upset.  Lesson learned.
So, when I got the call back from my July mammogram this last summer I immediately put my children in the information loop.  Emails, telephone calls and many visits happened after each appointment and procedure.  My sister in law, a breast cancer survivor, and my brother were in the loop from the beginning as well. This is my "support group."  I found it easy to talk to them and knew that they were there to support me.
After we got the diagnois of ICD at the end of August, my husband told his sister, brother, their spouses and my mother in law. This side of the family does not offer any support. They do ask how I am but then will change the subject even before I can answer. I believe that they don't know how to deal with my cancer. I do feel sorry for my husband in that they don't ask him how he is doing.  He has been a phenominal care giver and some support from them would have been helpful.
At work I told my principal and my ECE teaching partner the day after I got my diagnosis, which was the week ahead of when school was to start. I found this hard as I had only been told the day before. Both of them needed to know; my principal because I would need to leave in a few weeks and my teaching partner because we are a teaching team. At that time I found it difficult to open up with my work colleagues  I did not tell the other staff at school until I got my surgery date and had to leave after only 11 teaching days.  I did not tell the students. 
I have found it gets easier talking about having cancer the more people I talked with. I still, after six months, am choosy who I tell.  

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by Minus2 on Feb 2, 2018 5:52 am

At the beginning I was very selective in sharing about my cancer, now, not so much.  My husband knew everything as I went through the diagnostic process along with my adult children.  I wouldn't allow anyone to talk about it outside of my home because I was in line for a promotion at work and I didn't want the hiring decision to be affected if there wasn't a diagnosis.  Once I was diagnosed, the first "telling" was to our children; both were still living at home and in their early 20's.  My son had prepared himself for the worst and was less emotional.  My daughter had focused on the hope that the lump was benign and she was visibly upset.  My next calls were to my aunts and uncles; my parents have been gone for some time.  The first call was to my aunt who is a survivor.  I received my diagnosis on the 28th anniversary of her mastectomy.
At work, I shared specifics only with my very tight inner circle, but when I returned to work after surgery, I shared that  it was a cancer diagnosis that took me out of the building, but not the type of cancer.  I didn't want people looking at my chest instead of my face and most people I work with are wonderful, but some are insensitive idiots, and I didn't want to deal with them.  Some staff approached me after that meeting, mostly because they were in shock because I am young and healthy.  I was the last person they ever expected to hear of having a cancer diagnosis.  Also, I teach in a small community and I didn't want my students to know why I was off work.  As it is, one parent did find out thanks to a colleague, and showed up crying incoherently at my office and I had to console her.  I really didn't have the strength to prop her up!  Now that I am almost 2 years out from diagnosis, I find I can talk about it easier, although I am still cautious, and I am educating the women in my life about breast health and screening.  And I am ready for the insensitive idiots with scripted responses.

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by merry on Feb 2, 2018 8:10 am

I was very embarrassed to tell anyone that I had lung cancer. I was a heavy smoker and felt that if I did tell people outside of my family fingers would point with an "I told you so." When I started smoking magazines and TV commercials plugged smoking cigarettes with the might of the coming. It was cool, chic, sophisticated and "everyone" was doing it!!  Who wouldn't want to smoke?
But after lung cancer was shown to have a direct link to nicotine (smoking) thinking changed and there was a huge movement to get everyone to quit. For those of us who were already deep into nicotine's hold, it was a death grip strapped to us. We were shamed (by others) and felt guilt by what we had done to ourselves and our families and close friends.
Shaming and guilt needn't and shouldn't be a part of any person's illness. I did not start smoking so that I could get cancer. I never wanted cancer. There was no complicity of self-affliction. I didn't paint a target on my shirt and advertise target practice. I was a young impressionable naive girl wanting to fit in and I believed the hype of the ads and commercials.
I buried myself in my home and the comfort of my family. A least one other person smoked and my husband had quit years before.
Now, twenty years later I am not afraid to tell people that I have a form of chronic lung cancer. I won't let anyone shame me. For far too long society, not understanding the basic tenants of privacy, has inserted itself in trying to find out every detail of our intimate lives. Too many confessions on TV, books, and articles in magazines have taken hold.
And what of people who do not smoke, who get lung cancer? Being forced to explain themselves is a punishment too.
Yes, smoking caused my cancer. But I will not allow anyone to try and shame me again. I have served my dues. And for whatever time I have enough lung left to keep me alive I will continue to share my experiences on my blog and a site like this.



Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by Joe-Eddy on Feb 2, 2018 10:40 am

merry‍ I to was smoker as was my whole family and I mean everyone except for a few of the younger generation, so believe me I know all about smoking and all that goes with it. I luckily as told by my doctor quit about 4 years ago. I am not a militant ex smoker I truly believe you can not make some one quit they have to want to quit before it can happen. For me it was the constant hacking cough fits first thing in the morning. You are absolutely right about being shamed that is not acceptable, people get cancer for a myriad of reasons and is definitely not their fault. So good for you. CHEERS
Joe-Eddy Cancer Warrior

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by sgt. pepper on Feb 2, 2018 12:20 pm

Great topic.  I see a lot of familiar reactions and I too am very selective in talking about my cancer, especially to family members.  To this day my older sister does not know about my third bout and current situation as she was so unsupportive on the previous two occasions, which upset me and made me avoid her for future discussions.  I also worry about people's  reactions as I have had to deal with  inappropriate comments that were made so once again I avoid openly talking about my cancer in many situations.  I am not always a good judge of who to tell so I don't say anything if I'm doubtful.

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by merry on Feb 2, 2018 1:14 pm

I think that we need to think about what to reply when people get nosy, about any cancer. There are lots of "things not to say" but people like to insert how we live our lives. Outside of "mind your own business", which I think is ok if a person is being snarky, or not taking a hint.

I googled a few:
  • It’s not that important.
  • Nothing to bother/worry yourself with.
  • thanks for your concern, but I've got this
  • I’d prefer not to discuss that, if you don’t mind.
  • I’m still trying to figure that out, but if I think I could use your help, I’ll let you know.
  • I’m good, thanks.
  • There’s actually someone else involved in this, and I wouldn’t be comfortable discussing their situation with you.
  • Thanks for asking, I appreciate your concern, but I got this.
  • I really appreciate your offer to help, but this is really something I have to work through on my own.
  • Give me some time to work things out. I’ll fill you in as soon as I can.

    Does it really matter?
    It doesn’t matter.
    I actually like, "Does it really matter?" Esp for someone who is not nice.

    What else can we all come up with?


Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by Yogi on Feb 2, 2018 1:28 pm

Welll since I am not the one that has cancer, I asked Brian's permission to tell close friends and family. As far as Brian goes he dones't mind discussing it with anyone who asked, and because of his cool handmade cain he gets into many conversations!


Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by sundog on Feb 2, 2018 2:02 pm

Before my diagnosis whenever I heard the word 'cancer' I equated that with 'that person is going to die'. I hear that in people's voices still, when they talk about someone with cancer their voices quiet down and they drop in tone. I don't ever recall actually talking to someone with cancer before my diagnosis, other than a friend in high school, who we just treated as a having a 'normal' illness. (I even took her out to a concert during treatment, getting her back to the treatment residence well after curfew).
When I talk about it now, I try to be upbeat, keep it as a normal conversation. I still have difficulty sometimes with saying the word 'cancer' because of the look I get when they then ask what kind I have. I often say 'when I was on chemo' instead. 
When I was getting tested, my sister said to me, let's not use the 'c' word yet. The other day a customer asked me how to get a cushy job like mine (I am accomodated to sit part of the day due to a lingering lack of energy). I said, easy, just get cancer and you can be accomodated too! It's getting easier to say the 'c' word! My brother never could say it, just wished me 'good luck with my endeavour'!

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by merry on Feb 2, 2018 3:10 pm

merry‍ I to was smoker as was my whole family and I mean everyone except for a few of the younger generation, so believe me I know all about smoking and all that goes with it. I luckily as told by my doctor quit about 4 years ago. I am not a militant ex smoker I truly believe you can not make some one quit they have to want to quit before it can happen. For me it was the constant hacking cough fits first thing in the morning. You are absolutely right about being shamed that is not acceptable, people get cancer for a myriad of reasons and is definitely not their fault. So good for you. CHEERS

Thank you


Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by merry on Feb 4, 2018 7:33 am

Joe-Eddy- Thank you. Blogging has helped me recover from PTSD! I am now no longer in that dark abyss. I was never, nor am I now, a militant ex-smoker. And this surprised the hell out of me because I have a big mouth when it comes to causes. I think that it's because I hate being told what to do. I'm such a brat. And you are right, only the person who smokes can make that decision. We have to make changes in our lives that best suited to what we want and not because of the standards that society has placed on us.
Today is World Cancer Day!!

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by Pinky17 on Feb 4, 2018 12:34 pm

Like Yogi‍ , I am not the one with cancer- my husband is.  I also asked him what was okay to tell people before talking about it.  He is okay with letting people know (those who are interested in knowing!), but like most here, I have also been very selective about who to tell, and when.  In the beginning, I was so devastated about his diagnosis & prognosis, I couldn't talk without crying.  Now, as things have progressed, even though we are still in major intervention mode, I am better able to talk about what is happening with him / us.  I know that my husband's openness and self-advocating has made an enormous difference in helping me to better accept, communicate, and deal with what is happening with him.  Also, being on THIS site has been an incedible help to me!!!  Hearing your stories, challenges, frustrations, and especially successes has helped me to better understand that what we are going through is all part of what happens with a cancer diagnoses.  It changes how you feel, it changes relationships, it changes everything - some things for the better, others, not so much.  It does surprise me that those who you always thought would be there for you during the hard times, are not usually the ones who actually step up!  Sometimes, it is the "near strangers" in your life who end up reaching out and doing things to help - even if it is just lending an ear, or making you laugh when you need it the most, or snowblowing your driveway without asking!  These are the people who bless our lives these days.  Everyone handles things differently, so I try not to feel too hurt when they ask about my husband, then walk away when I tell them.  I don't think that it's because they don't care, I think it is because they DO care, but don't know how to respond or deal with the answer.  That is their burden, not mine.  We just keep doing our best and moving forward - that's all we can do.

Re: Let's Discuss...talking about cancer

Posted by Jazzfan on Feb 4, 2018 2:56 pm

Very well said Pinky17. Everyone does handle things in their own way. Sounds as if you are stronger than you give yourself credit for.  Picking and choosing who you tell is a smart way to go. Stay strong.