How to Tell People That You Have Cancer
Advice on how to start a very hard conversation.
You may be wondering whether you even need to disclose the news to her. But "you should tell someone in a position to approve any accommodations you may need," says Karen Hartman, a clinical social worker for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. If you're not sure yet, she adds, "It's fine to say, 'I don't know what's coming, but I might need time off for surgery and chemo, and I'd like to know what my options are.'"
However you deliver the message, practice first, suggests Susan G. Komen's Susan Brown. "Saying 'I have cancer' out loud can cause a really emotional reaction."
"A lot of women fear that cancer will be a deal breaker when it comes to starting a relationship, but more often than not, people aren't frightened away by the diagnosis," says Hartman.
Not sure when to broach the subject? Hartman recommends speaking up before things get physical. If you foresee a future with the person, say something sooner rather than later. "It's not first-date information," says Brown, "but the longer you wait, the trickier it can be."
Your Loved Ones
"Many patients worry more about their spouse than themselves," says Hartman. Take a little time to adjust and steel yourself for an emotional response that may include feelings of shock or helplessness. As for others, expect well-meant but at times frustrating reactions, especially in the form of unsolicited advice. To shut down an unhelpful helper, Hartman suggests memorizing a few lines you can deliver without becoming upset. "If someone says you just have to stay positive, try 'I have good and bad days, but I'm doing my best.' If they suggest an all-organic diet, say, 'I'm very pleased with my doctors' treatment plan.'"