Having a Difficult Conversation: How to Tell Loved Ones You Have Cancer

Sharing news of a cancer diagnosis with loved ones can feel overwhelming. A cancer diagnosis can stir up complicated feelings. Creating space to express these feelings can be difficult, particularly when you are struggling with your own emotions.

Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. Sharing your feelings and experiences can make heavy emotions lighter.

There is no specific right or wrong way to have this conversation, but there are things you can do to prepare.

Prepare for the Cancer Diagnosis Conversation

Preparing yourself for a difficult conversation can make it easier. You might prepare to share your cancer diagnosis by making a list of the loved ones you want to tell directly. It might also help to have a list of which people you would like information passed on to by someone close to you. You don’t have to tell everyone in your life yourself.

Oftentimes, people will immediately want to know how they can help. Consider how you would like to answer and be open to accepting aid.

Your loved ones might also have questions about your diagnosis. You can prepare yourself by having resources prepared before you begin the discussion. One resource you can recommend is our website, where they can find information about treatment methods.

Be prepared for some questions to feel unpleasant to discuss.

A cancer diagnosis is emotional. You might feel angry after being asked about your treatment and other related topics. Knowing what topics upset you beforehand can help you during your discussion. You can prepare by planning how you would like to change the conversation topic when someone asks you about these things.

After preparing yourself to tell your loved ones, you might want to practice beginning the conversation. Planning where and how you would like to tell your loved ones can make the conversation easier for you to start.

The Best Place

Sometimes we make things more difficult by feeling as though there is an appropriate setting in which difficult conversations must occur. The “best place” is wherever you feel most comfortable.

Although some people may feel like this type of conversation is one that should be had in person, you may feel more comfortable discussing it over the phone. It’s your news to share, so you shouldn’t feel guilty about what you decide.

Beginning the Conversation

You can begin by asking them what they already know. Your loved ones might already be aware of some things, and asking this at the outset can prevent you from having to repeat information. It can also make it easier to share your cancer diagnosis knowing they already have an idea of what it entails.

If sharing your cancer diagnosis all at once feels too difficult, you can introduce the subject slowly. Mention to your loved ones that you have been seeing a doctor and allow the conversation to flow from there.

There might be lulls in the conversation and awkward silences. This is normal. Ask your loved one how they feel and try to respond to their emotions while acknowledging your own. Some people may simply listen and not initially have much to contribute to the conversation. If you feel uncomfortable, it is okay to return to small talk. Small talk can serve as a reminder that life continues and can help maintain a sense of normalcy.

It may help to look to other survivor stories. Having a sense of community and knowing that you are not alone can provide relief and make a difficult conversation easier. Share with your loved ones the things that help you and have helped others in the past.

Talk to Our Compassionate Cancer Specialists in Roseburg

At the Community Cancer Center we strive to exceed the normal patient care expectations. We know this is an extraordinarily difficult time for you and your family. Your comfort will always be a priority for us, and we believe in providing the highest quality of care with compassion.

Schedule a consultation by calling at 541-673-2267 (ext. 5100) or by contacting us online.