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How did you share the news you have cancer with your loved ones?

hessomhessom Posts: 110 ✭✭✭
edited May 2020 in Carers Corner

Telling your loved ones you have cancer is one of the hardest things you can go through and there are lots of strategies for explaining the Big C. How did you explain to your loved ones that you had been diagnosed with cancer? Or, if you care for someone with cancer, how did they tell you?


  • hessomhessom Posts: 110 ✭✭✭
    A story a close friend of mine shared with me recently, was about how his parents decided to tell him and his brothers that their father had been diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer.

    They sat down and talked about how best to explain the news, and decided, because each of the three brothers are very different in nature, that it would be best to tell each of the three siblings separately and to give them each their own time.

    My friend has always wanted a closer relationship with his father, and, knowing this, they decided that he would call up my friend and explain to him directly, taking the opportunity to create a memory for him, in which he can always remember his relationship with his father.

    With each of the other two brothers, they used different strategies, explaining together for one and the mother calling up the other son, for various reasons that I won't go into for this post.

    My friends father has now sadly passed, after a few short years of battling cancer, but when my friend told me this, I was amazed to hear about the thought and consideration that had been put in to not only sharing the news of diagnosis, but in taking the time to recognise the personalities of each of their children and the delicate nature of explaining a terminal condition.
  • SunshinedaffSunshinedaff Posts: 1,425 ✭✭✭✭✭
    That's a really lovely way to tell news like this. So thoughtful of your friend's parents.

    When I was given my diagnosis, the first thing I asked the nurse was, 'What do I tell my girls?' Not only had I got cancer, but they found it in my lymph nodes, and so the unknown of where else it may be was terrifying. I didn't want to tell that news. Her answer...the truth. 

    My husband took charge, which was brilliant, by the time we got home it was very late and I wanted to wait until the next day, because it was soon bedtime for them. But he thought it best to tell them that evening.

    We had to come clean about why I had been to so many hospital appointments recently as well.

    We sat down together, and my husband broke the news. I could barely hold it together, was trying so hard not to crumble, but to be brave for them. My youngest broke first, rushed over to me, just hugging, crying. My eldest had tucked herself up into a tight bundle, desperately trying to hold herself together. I looked at her and said 'We'll get through this..', and then she rushed over. Three of us sat in a bundle on a single seat chair. It broke my heart. It is the single worse thing we have had to tell them, worse than telling about others dying. There were many tears, and then the laughter came. Christmas was on its way, I had been told I was starting chemo immediately, this meant I would be in chemo during Christmas. So the most important question? What are we doing for Christmas dinner?? And then we just began to giggle, my eldest said she could make beans on toast. Fabulous. Sorted. 'Are you going to lose your hair?' 'Yes, but I can wear hats and scarves, or a wig'. 'Nooo! Not a wig!' We ended up laughing until we cried. 
    We made a family decision, that we were going to fight this together, and then we prayed together. 

    We decided as a family that we would keep it to ourselves for the time being, and when we thought it time to tell, we would. I didn't tell my family (siblings) for a long time, only because of our family history with my sister, mum and dad. I didn't want them to think I was going the same way. I was diagnosed in September, and it was the following Easter that we gave them the news. By then I had been through chemo, surgery and was waiting for radiotherapy. By then it was good news. 

    There is no right or wrong way to tell this sort of news, I think we know instinctively the best way how to for our families and friends. I hope so anyway.

  • RobertARobertA Posts: 1,273 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Hi Lou 
    what a heartwarming story. It sounds as if you have a really lovely family and it must have been so special having them around you at such a difficult and challenging time. 

    Rob x
  • SunshinedaffSunshinedaff Posts: 1,425 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Hi Rob, 

    Yes, they were amazing. As a family, it brought us so much closer, and sibling squabbles evaporated into inconsequential nothingness. In one sentence, life changed. They were concerned about telling friends, so we didn't rush it, and when they were ready we arranged visits to break the news. 
    But they did suffer too, the school were brilliant, told us not to worry about school related stuff, they would scoop the girls up, provide support etc, make sure their school work would still be ok, and not fall behind. We could not have asked for more, the pastoral care they gave was second to none. My youngest really struggled, and when my hair fell out, she was in a heap. distraught in the office. It became a safe place for her to voice her fears, ask questions which the school were able to answer. Obviously we were in close contact with them all the time. 

    The hospital were great, sometimes the girls came to hospital appointments, they were allowed to come with me to chemo, see the oncologist etc. It really was a family affair, haha. :) 

    Lou x

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