“It’s very important to have a support system in place.”
When you find out you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you might worry about how your friends and family will handle the news, and how that information might impact your relationship. You may also be considering not telling your loved ones about your cancer diagnosis at all.
“Facing cancer is probably the most challenging experience that a person might go through,” says Rujuta Saksena, MD, hematologist and oncologist. “It’s very difficult to go through that journey of diagnosis and treatment alone.”
Whether or not to tell people about your cancer diagnosis is 100% your decision, but it’s important to consider the benefits of having a solid support system. “We’re not here to tell you who you’re supposed to tell or not, but I would encourage people to find their most trusted friends and to make sure they’re aware so they can be there for you,” says Joseph Pazona, MD, a board-certified urologist.
Let People Be There for You—and Show Them How
“All of us at some point require help. Going through something like cancer is extremely challenging,” says Dr. Saksena. “If [patients] are clear about expectations and they communicate this to their family members or their care team, [this] can help the rest of us take care of them in the best way possible.”
Having loved ones come with you to appointments, for example, can be a huge help. When you’re learning more about your diagnosis and treatment options, there’s a lot of information coming at you and it can be overwhelming.
“If you’re going to be undergoing different treatments, you need help. You need people to drive you from appointments [and] to pick up medications because you may not be feeling a hundred percent. This is a team effort. Who’s on that team is totally up to you, including your doctor,” says Dr. Pazona.
Talking to Children About Your Cancer Diagnosis
When considering telling your kid(s) about your diagnosis, it may be tempting to shield them from the news. Experts, however, encourage the opposite approach.
“Children are very intuitive and they often sense that something is amiss,” says Dr. Saksena. “So it is important for them, for parents especially, to communicate with their children in an honest way, so they are not confused or overwhelmed with what’s happening at home.”
Describe to your children the facts of what’s going on, without giving them any false promises. “Just speak to the facts of what you know, that, ‘Mommy or Daddy has something in their body that’s trying to hurt them, but that we’re working together as a team to fight this so we can be here for you for many, many years.’ I think honesty is the best policy,” says Dr. Pazona.
Get Professional Help If You Need It
If you’re struggling with the idea of telling your loved ones about your diagnosis or not sure how to start the conversation, consider seeking outside help.
“We have members of cancer teams that are very experienced in how to break news to people, including social workers, nurses, and even the doctors. So although this is new for you, it’s not new for us. So if you need any help at all, ask us. That’s why we’re here for you.”
Dr. Saksena is a hematologist and oncologist specializing in blood disorders and cancer care.
00:00:01.000 --> 00:00:03.666
(Dr. Saksena) It's very difficult to go through that journey
00:00:03.667 --> 00:00:07.866
of diagnosis and treatment alone.
00:00:07.867 --> 00:00:10.532
It's usually encouraged to try and share this information
00:00:10.533 --> 00:00:12.399
with trusted family or friends
00:00:12.400 --> 00:00:15.666
who can help that person deal with cancer
00:00:15.667 --> 00:00:18.299
and what comes with it in a better way.
00:00:18.300 --> 00:00:21.766
00:00:21.767 --> 00:00:24.532
Keep the lines of communication open
00:00:24.533 --> 00:00:27.666
so that both the caretaker and the person going
00:00:27.667 --> 00:00:30.966
through cancer are able to work together
00:00:30.967 --> 00:00:34.732
to try and get through this.
00:00:34.733 --> 00:00:38.299
We usually encourage family members or trusted friends
00:00:38.300 --> 00:00:41.466
to join patients during certain appointments.
00:00:41.467 --> 00:00:44.599
For example, the initial appointment or
00:00:44.600 --> 00:00:47.166
a time when a scan has just been done,
00:00:47.167 --> 00:00:49.766
and the reason is because it is always helpful
00:00:49.767 --> 00:00:52.866
to have emotional support during these times.
00:00:52.867 --> 00:00:56.432
The person who comes with you can be a second set
00:00:56.433 --> 00:00:58.766
of eyes or ears.
00:00:58.767 --> 00:01:00.599
When parents are diagnosed with cancer,
00:01:00.600 --> 00:01:04.466
their first instinct might entail protecting or shielding
00:01:04.467 --> 00:01:07.266
children from this diagnosis, but a lot of studies
00:01:07.267 --> 00:01:10.599
have shown that that is usually not a good approach.
00:01:10.600 --> 00:01:13.366
Children are very intuitive and they often sense
00:01:13.367 --> 00:01:15.399
that something is amiss.
00:01:15.400 --> 00:01:18.499
It is important for them, for parents especially,
00:01:18.500 --> 00:01:22.166
to communicate with their children in an honest way
00:01:22.167 --> 00:01:26.066
just so they are not confused or overwhelmed
00:01:26.067 --> 00:01:28.699
with what's happening at home.
00:01:28.700 --> 00:01:30.899
We have come to recognize the importance
00:01:30.900 --> 00:01:34.099
of a multidisciplinary approach when it comes
00:01:34.100 --> 00:01:37.132
to cancer therapy, so there's a lot of people
00:01:37.133 --> 00:01:40.166
on an individual's care team, typically,
00:01:40.167 --> 00:01:42.699
and that includes not just the physician or the patient,
00:01:42.700 --> 00:01:45.966
but also social workers and dietitians
00:01:45.967 --> 00:01:50.466
and genetic counselors, as well as various support groups.
00:01:50.467 --> 00:01:54.566
Facing cancer is probably the most challenging experience
00:01:54.567 --> 00:01:56.832
that a person might go through.
00:01:56.833 --> 00:01:58.532
To go through something like this,
00:01:58.533 --> 00:02:01.866
it's usually very helpful to understand
00:02:01.867 --> 00:02:04.732
what someone else's experience might have been,
00:02:04.733 --> 00:02:08.032
and just get emotional support along the way.
00:02:08.033 --> 00:02:10.100