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Preventive Health

How To Inform Your Loved Ones About Your Breast Cancer Diagnosis

6 Mins read

One of the most difficult aspects of coping with a breast cancer diagnosis is sharing the heartbreaking news with the people you love. Informing family and friends about your diagnosis is not easy. You have to deal with your own turbulent emotions while bracing yourself for the reactions of the people with whom you are disclosing this serious information. Breast cancer, like any cancer, affects everyone who cares about you, and it can be overwhelming for them as well as for you. 

Your loved ones will certainly feel sad and worried. Most of all, they will feel frightened at the possibility of losing you to the disease. Often, people don’t know what to say. They are stunned by the bad news and also feel afraid of saying something wrong that may further upset them. Thus, it is normal to feel stressed at the thought of sharing your diagnosis with your inner circle. However, telling them is important because they can offer invaluable support, which you need in your journey towards healing. 

Studies show that women who have immense support during breast cancer treatment feel happier, live better quality of life, and have higher survival rates than those who face isolation. Though there is no perfect way to tell people you have cancer, confiding in your loved ones can certainly make a world of difference. Below is a  guide that can help you ease through the process of sharing your breast cancer diagnosis with friends and family. 

Start With Personal Introspection 

Preparing for a very difficult conversation will help ensure it goes smoothly. Begin by doing a deep introspection to assess how you truly feel about your situation. Hearing the initial diagnosis and treatment options can be paralyzing. You will feel an onslaught of emotions like sadness, shock, depression, fear, and anxiety. You may even feel anger at the unfairness of it all and ask, “Why me?” 

Process your different feelings and take your time to digest everything. Then, learn about the disease and treatments so you can manage expectations, anticipate potential life changes, discuss risks, and deal with side effects. It may also be helpful to speak with a therapist in your cancer institute. A professional can help you work through your complex emotions and help you process your diagnosis.

Once you come to terms with your illness, you can determine the kind of support you need from the people around you. Taking the time to internalize your situation will allow you to express your thoughts and feelings in a better way. In addition, it can help you figure out what you feel comfortable sharing about your health condition and plan how to respond to questions once you have the talk.  

Anticipating which questions will likely be asked by your family and friends helps you prepare answers, which is very important.

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Decide Who You Want to Tell

Though you may not have control over breast cancer, remind yourself that you can still control many other aspects of your life. You get to make a decision when you feel ready to inform and who to inform. Remember, you are not obliged to tell everyone. 

It may be cathartic to write a list as the act of writing with a pen on paper can clear your thoughts. Make a column for people you want to speak to in person and another group you will inform through a spokesperson like a friend or relative. You might even decide to say the news differently with each person. It’s really up to you! 

However, you may need to tell the people you work with about your health condition. Though you don’t have to share the news with all your colleagues, speaking with your manager and human resources division would be prudent. They need to know because breast cancer treatment may require you to take frequent time off from work.  

Figure Out What You Want to Share

It is daunting to tell your loved ones, “I have breast cancer.” It may even be difficult to say the words aloud to yourself because you cannot believe it is happening to you, and you are now a part of the statistics. So how in the world can you share this diagnosis? 

Psychologists say that saying the words out loud can help release your pent-up emotions. In addition, telling people is healthy because it shows acceptance. Though it is difficult to find the right words to say, and you may feel emotional during the talk, sharing the news with others makes your disease more real. In fact, it may feel therapeutic to talk about it because people who love you will offer comfort and support. Having them around during this trying time will help you cope better.

You must also remember that people generally think the worst when they hear the word cancer. Thus, it is your responsibility to inform them on the extent of your breast cancer diagnosis. For some people, knowing the severity or stage of your cancer makes them feel more at ease as they can offer better support. Knowledge is power, so giving information regarding your breast cancer stage may assuage everyone’s fears and anxieties. 

You can also withhold certain information if you don’t feel like sharing every detail about your treatment plans. It would help to tailor your words and modify them depending on whom you are addressing. This is very important, especially when you tell your children about illness. Keep it simple and light for the young ones. You don’t want them to feel scared because it will also affect you. How you cope is the most important consideration. 

Consider the Right Time and Place to Have the Talk

When it comes to sensitive matters, timing helps. Breaking the bad news will be very hard for your family and friends to hear. A breast cancer diagnosis will also elicit a range of feelings for people like shock, sadness, anger, or denial. As such, you need the appropriate time and place to hold the conversation. 

You may start by getting in touch with them via phone or text and say you have an urgent matter to address. With this, they can prepare their minds for a serious discussion. Then, set a time and place for the conversation. Think of a safe space where everyone involved can express themselves freely. 

Encourage your family and friends to tell you what they have in mind so you can both work through your feelings together. Though talking about breast cancer is never easy, it would help to do the following:

  • Learn your emotional triggers ahead so you can respond to sensitive topics and questions. 
  • Affirm that it is okay to cry, ask questions, and share their thoughts. 
  • Tell them what will help you, such as offering emotional support by spending time together or doing practical things like chores and running errands. 
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Stay True to Yourself As You Break the News

Though it can be hard, remain true to who you are as you share the diagnosis. Remember, breast cancer only changes the configuration of your breasts, but it will never change your beautiful personality. When talking about something this sensitive, stay authentic throughout the entire conversation. This will open doors and ensure productive conversations because people will not have to tip-toe around you. After all, you would also like a sense of normalcy as you go through your cancer journey. 

If you choose to be honest about the diagnosis and course of treatment, you can take a few family members with you to the checkup, so they can hear what your oncologist says. It is better to have more people there so you can compare notes afterwards. When you feel emotional, it may be impossible to take in everything that the doctor says. Having family or friends with you offers a tremendous morale boost. 

You can even trace back your family history to determine if anyone has had breast cancer and how they fared in their respective treatments. Having this conversation with your family is crucial because, in some cases, breast cancer can be hereditary. This means you could have the carrier DNA that passes breast cancer from generation to generation. 

Your family may therefore feel inclined to undergo genetic screening by taking the CircleDNA test to find out if they’re at higher risk for certain cancers. In turn, this allows them to stay more proactive with nutrition, clinical scans, and other preventative measures. The key to beat breast cancer and many other cancers is early detection, as it prevents escalations and increases the chances of survival. 

Do not hesitate to tell your loved ones about your wishes. For example, if you have a severe diagnosis, you may want to discuss a living will or give someone a medical power of attorney. Though most people do not like these emotionally charged conversations, it is vital to bravely face your situation and discuss all the details. Having a plan in place will provide more security for you and your loved ones. With the right preparation, you can move through challenging conversations with grace, hope, love in your heart and loved ones by your side.

Hannah Wabe
14 posts

About author
Hannah Victoria Wabe has an MA in Development Communication, which shows how just much she loves and believes in the power of words. She works part-time as a writer and educator but works full-time as a mother of three kids, ranging from 8 to 18. Though she’s not a big fan of math, she believes in counting blessings and imbibes an attitude of gratitude.
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