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Sharing your Cancer Story

Posted 7/29/2016

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  Deciding where, who, when, and how to share the news about your cancer is not always easy. Sometimes it seems as though we fall into two groups here: those of us who don't want to tell anyone and those of us who tell everyone, including the person behind us in line at the deli and the postman. Clearly that is not exactly accurate, and there are a number of nuances and factors to consider. Once the story has been told, you can't take it back.

  One important reality is that people can't support you if they don't know what is happening. I have known women who were very disappointed by the limited support from friends, but, when we talked more, it became evident that very few people had been told. None of us like being the subject of gossip, and it is also a reality that will happen. Once the news is out there, people will say to others: "Did you hear that...?". Much of that sharing is well-intentioned, but some of it does not feel that way.

  You can, of course, ask people not to tell others, but you can't count on their silence. This can be especially awkward within families. Through the years, I have talked with a number of women whose family situations were tense and stressful; they may have had close relationships with some siblings and have been totally estranged from others. It is pretty hard to expect your sister not to talk with your other sister about your cancer, even if you would prefer that sister #2 not know about it. 

  People worry about the impact of the news on their professional lives as well as their personal lives. For many of us, there is a lot of cross-over in those two spheres, and it is close to impossible to fully monitor what is disclosed where. You may worry, too, about the impact on your children, what others might say to them and what questions they might be asked. The best way to manage that concern is to share honest age-appropriate information with your children and then to talk more with them about what to say to others. You can tell them that other kids may ask why you are bald or say: " I know your mom has cancer." Give them some responses.

  Always remember that you are in control of how much information to share. Although you can't fully control who says what to whom, you can tightly hold the details. Unless you want to talk about it, it is no one's business how large your tumor was or what drugs you will be receiving or what your prognosis is. You can absolutely lay down the boundaries and stick to them.

  This is a helpful article from Cancer Net about all of this:

3 Things to Consider Before Sharing Your Cancer Story
 · Amy Thompson
Each person living with cancer has a story to share…your story, individual in its twists and
turns and ups and downs. Because your story is personal, it makes sense that sharing this
story—how, when, if, and with whom—can be a big decision. Your comfort level with various
aspects of your story, as well as how much to share, can vary from person to person.
If you’re in the process of deciding whether or not to share your story, or maybe you’ve already
decided that the time is right, here are a few things to think about to help you through the

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  • Heidi said:
    8/3/2016 2:29 PM

    Sharing my cancer story has been one of the most important things in my recovery. And I have found out over the past few years I have helped a few people by being so public!In fact cancer, helped me have the courage to start my own business!