Jump To:

  • A- A A+
  • Click to change font size:   

Print this page

2. Sharing the diagnosis with family and friends

Sharing a diagnosis of cancer isn’t easy. You may feel uncomfortable talking about it and be unsure about how others will respond. It may also be tempting to keep information to yourself to avoid worrying your loved ones. However, living in a rural community means it’s likely that people will probably find out about the diagnosis quite quickly, so being honest with those who are close to you is important. You needn’t tell everyone everything, but it might be helpful to encourage sharing the news to ensure you don’t face cancer alone.

Tips to help tell others:

  • Sit down with the person who has received the cancer diagnosis and make a list of who to tell and when to tell them together. This will help prevent people being upset and conflict arising. You may find it helpful to tell those closest to you first and enlist their help to tell others.
  • Be prepared for questions.
  • Keep in mind that family and friends will probably also find the diagnosis difficult to adjust to and probably won’t know what to say. They may even distance themselves from the patient or yourself, or react in other ways you find hurtful (e.g. claiming they know “exactly how you feel” even though they’ve never had cancer). Usually this isn’t a deliberate attempt to upset you. Instead it happens because they feel awkward or uncomfortable.
  • A good way to help friends and extended family to adjust is to suggest how you would like them to behave. You might tell them that they don’t need to say anything – you just appreciate being with them. Most people like to help in a practical way, so giving them a job will also help them to adjust (and you to cope!).
  • If you’re telling children, reassure them that cancer isn’t contagious and that no one is responsible for it. Also give them opportunities to share their feelings and fears but where possible, keep as much ‘normal’ structure in their lives.
  • Although many people fear they might upset those who are close to them if they are open with them, doing so might in fact provide you all with some relief. People around you are probably picking up clues on how you are feeling, even if you haven’t told them directly. You might find (as others have) that hiding emotions is actually more stressful and draining for all involved than simply expressing them.