Breaking the bad news
Being diagnosed with cancer is probably one of the most difficult moments anyone could face, but perhaps the most emotional part will be breaking the news to your loved ones.
Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge your own feelings surrounding your diagnosis. These are bound to go from one extreme to another. The more you share what you are thinking and how you are feeling with those closest to you, the easier it will be to make sense of these emotions. In fact, research shows that those who find support in others are most able to cope best.
While you may at first experience shock and disbelief, allow yourself some time to mull over the news. Sometimes this can lead to denial, which is no good, since ignoring the issue in the hope that it will go away won’t be beneficial to you.
It’s important that you try to face up to reality, take action, and ultimately, take control over your diagnosis and treatment, which is another reason that it’s so important to surround yourself with supportive family and friends.
They’ll help you to start considering the treatment options and try to find one that best suits you.
Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor as many questions as you can think up – there is no such thing as a silly question – since the more information you have, the more you’ll be in control of your diagnosis.
In addition, having more information will give you the ability to better explain your situation to friends and family.
“It is important to ask for and receive correct, relevant and appropriate information [to] develop a sense of partnership between the different parties through open, inclusive and on-going communication,” says psychologist Trish Blake.
There is no right or wrong way to break the news – each person and family is different – but telling your closest loved ones is important, not only because they’ll provide essential support for you, but so that they can have time to process the news of your illness too.
First, identify those who you’d like to break the news to in person. While telling them might be difficult initially, many people find that being able to share their concerns and fears can help them solve problems they might be having, such as choosing a treatment. Telling someone can also help you to come to terms with your diagnosis.
Be aware that everyone will handle the news differently. While one person might offer you support, you might find yourself consoling someone else – even though you’re the one who is going to be fighting this illness. Whatever the reaction, be patient and understanding, recognising that those you tell are expressing their concern and love for you in their own way.
So, communication is the key. It’s natural to feel uncertainty, deep grief, anger, fear and even guilt, but if you’re able to share this rollercoaster of emotions with people you trust, you’ll find the strength to cope better.
“I think the most important thing is that each person’s experience is unique,” adds Blake.
“The information from websites, brochures and experts may be helpful, but there also needs to be space for individual feelings, thoughts, wishes and experiences to be heard, affirmed and validated as they arise.”