Sharing your cancer diagnosis with friends and family


Receiving a cancer diagnosis is never easy and everyone will process it in their own way. You may find you want to take it in and fully deal with it yourself before you share it with anyone or you might turn to your people immediately so they can help you work through your emotions. It’s important for you to remember that no matter what you read in books, see in movies or hear from people who have been there, you are allowed to process the information however you see fit.

Once you are ready to tell your friends and family about your diagnosis, it can be hard to know how to approach the conversation. You may decide to tell different people in different ways. You might even choose to tell one loved one and have them share the information with others. Whatever you choose, there are a few ways to prepare for a conversation that will likely be very difficult.

       1. Decide what you’re going to say

This is your diagnosis. You are allowed to share as much or as little as you feel comfortable.

Do your best to understand your own feelings so you can convey those to your loved ones. You may want to practice the conversation in your head or journal a few times to make sure you’re prepared with everything you want to say. Consider that the people you are telling will have their own range of emotions and will likely need some time to process.

       2. Decide who you are going to tell and how you are going to tell them

Think about what and who you are going to need to help you through this journey and share the news with them. You can ask them to help you break the news to others or choose to keep your diagnosis more private, but be clear if you don’t wish for them to share the news with others.

Pick an appropriate location and time. It will likely be an emotional conversation so keep that in mind.

       3. Lead the conversation

You have had more time to process the news than they have so when you tell them, know what you are and aren’t comfortable talking about yet. People want to be helpful but as they deal with their own emotions they might not know what to say. Know how you will respond if someone says something that upsets you even if they had the best intentions.

Everyone wants to feel helpful so write a list before you go of things people can do for you, from rides to treatment to cooking dinner once a week. It will make them feel good that they can help and it will take some weight off your shoulders.

Finally, remember they are only human too. As much as you want to share your feelings, make sure you ask them how they are feeling as well. You can help each other work through some of the most difficult emotions.