Talking About Your Illness
One of the very first issues faced by women who are newly diagnosed is whom to tell and what to say. In some ways, the world can be divided into those of us who don't want to say a word to anyone and those of us who tell everyone--including the person behind us in line at the grocery store. My basic advice is that you need to tell the people with whom you live (including children) asap; they will certainly notice that the mood and the air space have changed in the house, and they likely will overhear conversations. It is also important to tell other close family and friends pretty quickly; they care about you, will want to help, and you will need their support. It becomes trickier as you think about the further out circles of friends, work colleagues, others at your church or gym or activities. You can wait a bit for these, if you want, and it is sometimes easier to tell once there is a plan to share. Remember that the details are no one's business but your own. People will ask stupid and insensitive questions like : "How big is the tumor?" or "What is your prognosis?" My suggestion, unless you are comfortable and choose to say more, is to respond in one of two ways:
1. In a puzzled voice: "Why would you ask me that?" This is my very favorite all purpose response that can be used in a myriad of situations and puts the onus back on the questioner.
2. Or: "I would rather not talk about the details. I will be fine."
Here is a nice short essay from Health Day about this:
Print This Close Window
Talking -- or Not Talking -- Can Give Cancer Patients a Sense of Control
Making decisions about who they wish to communicate with is empowering, study finds
FRIDAY, Sept. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Having control over how to communicate with family, friends and colleagues about their disease helps cancer patients cope with their situation, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin interviewed cancer survivors about strategies they used in managing information about their illness, how they handled conversations about their condition, challenges they faced, advice they received, and recommendations they would make to others.
The results showed that communication is an important element in coping with cancer because it gives patients a sense of control during an extremely difficult time, the researchers said.
But they also found that it's not possible to predict or control other people's reactions, despite cancer patients' best efforts to structure and control communication.
"Our study suggests that the very act of taking steps to be protective when communicating about cancer may benefit people because doing so empowers them during a time characterized by so much helplessness," Erin Donovan-Kicken, an assistant professor of communication studies, said in a university news release.
Cancer patients said it helped to be able to tell even well-meaning family and friends that they needed space; that they needed to focus on themselves without needing to support others; and to avoid people who were sad or overly solicitous.
The study appeared in the August issue of the
Journal of Applied Communication Research.
-- Robert Preidt
SOURCE: University of Texas at Austin, news release, August 2011
Copyright © 2011
. All rights reserved.