Finding Stability

How to Tell People You Have Cancer Your Way

Telling colleagues that you have cancer doesn't have to weigh you down. It can be emotional and uncomfortable, but you will find that once it's out there, support is available.

When you’re diagnosed with cancer, a million things run through your mind. Figuring out how to tell people you have cancer, whether it’s family, close friends or your coworkers, can add another worry to your list. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach; the method you choose can vary from one friend or family member to the next.

There are different perspectives for you to consider when pondering how to tell people you have cancer. Here are a few suggestions to help you inform your friends and colleagues.

Vague is Okay

You may stumble when revealing your cancer diagnosis and find yourself talking about some symptoms you’ve been experiencing. If you don’t feel comfortable spitting out the diagnosis, you can mention some keywords to serve as a lead-in, like tumor or mass, or even the treatment type you’ll be undergoing. You can leave it up to friends and colleagues to figure out that you have cancer. It’s an elemental, subtle approach resulting in understanding. You can leave little breadcrumbs for people to pick up if you feel awkward completely saying what you’re going through right now.

Go for the No-Holds-Barred Approach

How to tell people you have cancer may evolve as you go through treatment. Sometimes candor is best, and you just want to let it all out. When out with friends, you can casually drop it into conversation. In the movie “A Little Bit of Heaven,” the character played by Kate Hudson, who is recently diagnosed with cancer, just blurts it out at a dinner table to her friends and colleagues. You’ll be amazed at how much consolation you get from friends after pointedly announcing your diagnosis. If this fits your style, schedule a dinner at your house or a group outing where you plan to bring this up spontaneously.

Respond to Curiosity

The people in your life often know when you’re “different.” They detect when you’re pre-occupied, and your cancer may be altering your outward appearance, too. Curiously, friends and colleagues may ask, “Are you OK?” It’s your decision if you want to wait until others bring it up. Such inquiries are usually compassionate ways your friends are letting you know they care. Regardless, you’re the catalyst in this situation. You will probably find it easier to avoid secrecy and just be candid. You may choose to post the news on social media or send a department-wide email, so you don’t have to repeat yourself in person constantly.

Empower a Messenger

You may also consider confiding in one close friend (or a select few) and give consent to having him or her share the news on your behalf. This method reduces the number of times you have to tell your story, while also protecting your confidence and self image. You know your comfort zone. You have the right to expand or limit the circle of those who know about your cancer diagnosis, as well as how they find out.

Ultimately, sharing a cancer diagnosis is a choice. You retain the discretion along your journey. You can allow people to know, or you can choose privacy. Either choice demonstrates utter strength and try to find peace in knowing that your family, friends and coworkers stand ready to support you. Rest assured, how to tell people you have cancer doesn’t have to weigh you down.

Telling your friends can lead to all kinds of support. There are always options available if you need more.

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  • Nick Mararac

    This has a lot of potential to be funny.

Stephen Owsinski
Stephen Owsinski