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Tips for Telling Your Loved Ones You Have Cancer


Once you learn you have cancer, there’s a myriad of emotions and decisions you’re bound to face. One of which being how and when you should tell your family and close friends. The truth is that there is not a perfect answer that will work for everyone. It’s a very personal decision; some may feel inclined to tell others right away, while others may take some time to process the situation before revealing it to family and friends. Regardless of when and how you tell others, here are some useful tips that may help you when the time does come.

a woman telling her friends she has cancer and receiving support and comfort

Think About Your Own Feelings

It’s important for you to take the time to think about your own feelings concerning your diagnosis. Are you scared, yet determined to beat it? Crippled by fear? Numb? Concerned for how others will react? Try to find a firm grasp on these types of feelings. Once you know how you feel, you can better approach how you will tell family and friends. For some, that time may be later that same evening; for others, it may be a bit later.


Consider Telling One Person First

Choose someone very close to you, whether a spouse, sibling, or friend, and confide in them all your concerns and fears. Discuss possible ways you can tell others about your cancer. If you’re uncomfortable with spreading the word, you can have your new confidant begin telling others for you. Either way, it’s helpful to have someone by your side, someone you’re comfortable having the difficult conversations with.


Prepare Yourself for Different Reactions

Whether you tell others individually or as a group, everyone is going to react differently. Try not to hold expectations for how others will react. Some may try to be strong for you while others may be devastated or extremely emotional. Understand that your family and friends will also need some time to process their feelings. It could come all at once or little by little over time. Some may be anxious and ready to help or talk at length about your cancer. Don’t let them rush you if you’re not ready for those conversations. Thank them for their concern and support, but it’s okay to tell them you need more time.


Decide How Much You Want to Share

You get to decide how much you want to share with whom you want to tell. You may feel inclined to inform others about the type of cancer your have and its stage. If you don’t want to discuss your diagnosis at length or the treatments you’ll receive, that’s okay. Just be sure to communicate those wishes to whomever you tell. It’s also okay to tell them what you need from them, whether strong support or some personal space while you handle the situation.


Signs That It’s Time to Tell Others

It’s worth stating again: you decide when it is time to tell others about your cancer. That being said, it is important you share your diagnosis at some point, especially if you have close family members like a spouse and children. If you’re waiting, that’s perfectly fine; however, it may be time if you:

  • Notice your diagnosis affecting someone else
  • Need help with daily tasks and activities
  • Need financial assistance or are stressed about paying for treatment
  • Want to share your emotions
  • Feel isolated and alone

There are many reasons to indicate it’s time to share your diagnosis. Recognizing these signs can be difficult, especially if you are experiencing any type of denial. Again, you may want to confide in one person first, someone who can help you recognize these signs and can even be your messenger to others if you wish.

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