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Do I Tell Anyone I Have Cancer?

Whether to share with others the news you have cancer can be a very personal decision. Sometimes you're just not sure what to do or how much to reveal. There's no right or wrong choice, but knowing how others have coped with making this decision may provide some guidance to you as you consider whom to tell.

Some people with cancer choose to tell their loved ones only; others find it helps to let people they come in regular contact with know about their diagnosis. They sometimes tell their:

  • spouse or partner
  • children, parents, brothers or sisters
  • children's teachers
  • close friends
  • friends from their place of worship
  • employer
  • co-workers

When people decide to tell others, they sometimes do so for these reasons:

  • It's too big and scary to deal with alone.
  • It lets other people give support.
  • It gives family and good friends a chance to say how they feel.

People who decide not to share their diagnosis have given these reasons for not doing so:

  • They're not ready to talk about it.
  • They're afraid that other people will be scared.
  • They think other people may not want to be around them.
  • Saying the words out loud makes the cancer more "real."
  • They don't want others to feel sorry for them or change how they treat them.

Confiding in Family and Friends

Many people find it best to be honest with family and friends. By confiding in loved ones, you give them the chance to offer their support. It's true that some of your relatives or friends may not know what to say or do. But most do want to be supportive.

Consider "appointing" a willing family member or friend to be your "press secretary." He or she can be responsible for regularly letting others know your health status so you can focus on your treatment and recovery.

Many organizations, including The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, provide web-based discussion boards where you can share information and receive support without being overwhelmed by questions and phone calls. Sending group emails to family and friends is also helpful and efficient.

last updated on Tuesday, March 15, 2011
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