When your doctor delivered the unexpected news about your mesothelioma diagnosis, how did you react? Were you angry? Confused? Sad? Maybe even filled with hope? Whatever your initial reaction, one thing is for sure — the way you responded was normal. Cancer can evoke many different feelings in people, and as you come to terms with your own diagnosis, you will discover this is true for your friends and family as well.
Preparing to Tell Your Loved Ones About Your Diagnosis
First and foremost, do not feel pressured to share your news before you are ready. Some mesothelioma patients feel like they have to tell all their family members and friends immediately, even though they aren’t comfortable with having that discussion yet. This is about you and it’s okay to wait if that is what you want to do.
The American Cancer Society recommends thinking about what you hope to gain from talking to your friends and family about your diagnosis. For example, you may hope to receive support and encouragement from your loved ones, as well as assistance with chores, appointments, and duties that you may not be able to perform while undergoing treatment. Communicate that to your loved ones upfront. This is not the time to “expect” anyone to know what you need, and oftentimes, many people are ready and willing to help — you just have to ask.
Before sitting down with family and friends, you should also prepare yourself for how certain people may react to your news. In the same way that mesothelioma patients have incredibly different reactions to their diagnoses, so too will their friends and family. The National Cancer Institute notes that how your family reacts to cancer may depend a lot on how you’ve faced hard times in the past. Some families will find it easy to talk about mesothelioma, while others may find it harder. Think about your family dynamic and the various personalities and prepare yourself for a variety of responses.
Having the Talk about Your Mesothelioma Diagnosis
The days, weeks, and months following a mesothelioma diagnosis can be a very confusing time. There’s a good chance you are hoping someone will tell you the “best” way to tell your loved ones about your condition and exactly who you should be sharing the news with. Unfortunately, that’s not usually the case. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to tell your friends and family about your diagnosis.
When it comes to the issue of who you should tell, that is of course, up to you. Some people find it comforting to organize a face-to-face meeting with all of their closest family and friends to share the information all at once. Others prefer to tell only a few close confidants who are either asked to keep the news private. Sometimes these close confidants can share the news with other family members and friends so that you aren’t having the discussion more than a couple of times.
A lot of discomfort that your loved ones may face could revolve around fear of the unknown. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer and many people have never even heard of it, so you may want to explain the basics of your disease, including how you may have gotten it, what your prognosis is, and what your treatment options are. Try to be forthright and open with the people you love, and you will hopefully receive the same in return.
Talking to Kids About Mesothelioma
A source of stress for many mesothelioma patients is figuring out how to share the news with the children in their lives. Cleveland Clinic recommends being honest and direct with kids, and not being afraid to use the word “cancer” in the discussion. How in-depth you get will depend on the age of the children and what you feel they are capable of understanding. Cleveland Clinic’s basic tips include:
- Keep the language simple and don’t overwhelm them with too much information.
- Stay calm and reassure them that you are coping, and that they can too. However, do not be afraid to share your sadness as well, if that seems appropriate in the situation.
- It’s okay if you don’t have the answers to all of their questions. Tell them you will find out from your doctor and let them know soon.
At the end of the discussion, just make sure they know you are there for them, you’re a team, and that you care about them deeply.
Request a Free Guide for Friends and Family
Another way you can share your diagnosis with loved ones is to give them a copy of the Mesothelioma Help Guide that was created for family and friends. It will assist them in figuring out how they can help you, and it will help them sort through their own emotions at the same time.