Sharing the News
One of the early decisions after hearing a cancer diagnosis is when and where and how and to whom to share the news. I have always thought that this is one of the ways to divide the world: people who tell everyone and people who would prefer not to tell anyone and share the news very sparingly. For better or worse, I fell into the first group and had to restrain myself from telling the clerk at the grocery store or the woman behind me in line at the bank.
More seriously, there are complications and implications that follow. We all worry about the impact on our families, and many of us are appropriately concerned about what it will mean at work. Although I generally recommend honest and early disclosure with families, I have been convinced that there are times when that is not the best decision. For example, I have had many patients whose elderly parent or parents live far away, are seldom visited, and it really is possible not to tell them. Since many elderly people still believe the old equation of cancer=death, it can be kind of withold the news. Clearly, if you are going to lose you hair, it is pretty hard to keep the information silent, but I have known women who pulled it off. They couldn't decide whether it was insulting or flattering that their elderly mother didn't recognize a wig. There are also times when it seems wise to wait a bit before telling a child away at college (e.g. if exams are next week), and it surely makes sense to take time to think about how to break the news at work..
Before telling your manager or colleagues, it is generally better to know more about the treatment plan. JUst blurting out "I have cancer!" is distressing and makes everyone wonder and worry how much work you will miss and how much extra they will have to do. If you wait until you can say that surgery is next week, you will need X number of days away, and then expect to be back....it is easier all around.
Here is an excellent article from Cure Today:
Disclosing a Cancer Diagnosis Takes Time and Tact
BY DON VAUGHAN
Tanya Tuttle-Barth needed a couple of days to let the news sink in. Her husband, Ralf, was with
her when she received a diagnosis of MALT lymphoma, a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma,
but she didn’t feel compelled to rush out and tell others right away.
I knew I had to tell people in order to get the emotional support I needed, and I wanted my loved
ones to hear it directly from me,” she says. “We have a close-knit family, and this is the kind of
thing we share together.”
Tuttle-Barth, a nurse coordinator in North Ridgeville, Ohio, informed her grown children first,
followed by friends and extended family. “I disclosed the diagnosis and what it means,” she says.
“We talked about treatment options and the favorable statistics on attaining remission