How to Tell Your Family and Friends You Have Cancer

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March 16, 2023
Family and Friends

When your oncologist gives you a diagnosis of cancer, there are many things that begin to happen. You may need to arrange further doctor’s appointments and tests before your treatment plan begins. You’ll be feeling a lot of emotions and your mind may bounce in different directions.

One thing you may wonder is how to tell your family and friends that you have cancer. This is a personal experience for you, and you must do what feels most comfortable to you. Here are some things to consider before talking to friends and family.

Who Are You Going to Tell?

It’s okay to not tell everyone you know about your cancer diagnosis. It’s up to you to decide who you want to share the news with and who you don’t. Of course, there are people that will need to know at some point in the near future.

There will be close friends and family that you need to tell in person and others that you can talk to about your diagnosis over the phone or by email. It’s beneficial to make a list and ensure you tell everyone that you want to know.

When it comes to the workplace, you don’t have to tell everyone in the office. However, you need to sit down with someone in human resources (HR) and let them know. It’s probably beneficial to include your immediate supervisor at this meeting. In the coming weeks and months, you’ll need to take time off for treatments, so you can go ahead and fill out any necessary paperwork.

Prepare Yourself for Talking to Others

As you prepare to talk to others about your cancer diagnosis, it’s a good idea to determine how you feel about it. There isn’t one right way to feel. You may feel shocked, angry, numb, scared, and any number of other things. Once you know how you feel, you’ll be in a better position to let your friends and family know how they can help you, and that’ll be one of their first questions.

Selecting a time and place to tell your family and friends can be a challenge. You don’t want to announce it during your cousin’s daughter’s birthday party. You might consider scheduling a time for them to come to your home for the discussion.

You want to decide how you want to tell them. Do you want to take a direct approach or lead in to more gently? You might consider practicing a few times before telling someone. Imagine what you’ll say and what they’ll say.

Just remember, you don’t have to tell anyone until you’re ready.

What Details Do You Want to Share?

Once you announce you have cancer, your friends and family will have questions. It’s up to you to decide how much you’re comfortable sharing. From treatment to prognosis, your friends are going to want all the details. It’s beneficial for you to decide how much you want to share with each person before you break the news to them.

You might consider the idea of different levels of sharing. For instance, you might tell your immediate family everything, while only telling the extended family about possible treatment plans. Casual friends and co-workers might only know that you have cancer and that you’re pursuing several different treatment options. You need to be comfortable sharing the information that you do provide.

How to Handle Offers to Help

The truth is that there will probably come a time when you will need help during your treatments. While you might not need anything now, you might leave the door open for future offers.

It’s a good idea when accepting offers of help to match offers with the person’s strengths. For example, if your best friend asks how she can help, and your kids all play on the same soccer team, perhaps, you can ask her to take over carpool duty for a couple of months. Perhaps, your neighbor loves to cook, and you find yourself too sick to cook after treatment. You could ask your neighbor to make a meal for your family on treatment nights.

However, you need to set your boundaries. If you’re uncomfortable with accepting help from some people, then don’t. While everyone wants to help, you don’t have to accept it.

What to Do When Someone Says Something Unhelpful

Almost everyone you tell loves you and only has the best motives, but sometimes, someone is going to say something unhelpful. They may talk about how a friend of a friend was part of a cancer trial and lived forever. Of course, it was probably a different type of cancer and forever is a long time. The person means well, but you don’t need to hear it.

It’s a good idea to respond politely and firmly to unhelpful statements. You might not be ready to talk about an issue, and it’s okay to let the person know that you appreciate their concern, but you aren’t ready yet. You can leave it open-ended to future discussions if you like. Once again, you should only talk about things that you’re comfortable talking about.

Things to Avoid When It Comes to Relationships and Friendships

When you were just recently diagnosed with cancer, it’s a stressful time for you and for your friends and family. It’s easy to let your emotions take over the conversation and for triggers to send you into bouts of tears. However, you don’t want to push your friends and family away. You want to build and strengthen these relationships.

It’s a good idea to avoid saying harsh things. You can also take a few minutes to think before you speak. You don’t want to pull back and isolate yourself from your normal activity and the people who love and support you the most.

At Arizona Oncology, we understand how you feel when you first receive your diagnosis of cancer. We can help you navigate treatment and know how important your support system of family and friends is to your treatment. Remember, don’t let anyone rush you to tell others or make you accept help when you don’t want it. Do everything on your schedule.

At Arizona Oncology, we understand how you feel when you first receive your diagnosis of cancer. Not only can we help you navigate treatment, we also know how important your support system of family and friends is to your treatment. You have control of your care but also communication. Remember, at Arizona Oncology, we are here for you.