You’ve been told you have cancer, now you have to tell people that you have cancer. There is no easy way to do it. When we did it we tried to do it in stages. It is tiring, so stages work much better.
First, I told my brother over the phone, he is out of town–well all my family is out of town and they all would hear by phone. He had the best response, he would rather have heard that I won the lottery much more than he wanted to hear I had cancer. He was pleased with the prognosis, he is a good big brother, definitely in the top two of my big brothers. We talked for a minute or so and then I was done. I mean done for the day, I needed a nap maybe to go to bed for the night, maybe go to bed until this was over.
Instead of taking a nap I told my neighbor, in person. That was when I realized that while I like hugs and people and human interaction in general, it was kind of easier over the phone. My neighbor is wonderful and kind and the best next door neighbor, best neighbor on the street.
After telling the two of them I came to some realizations, we weren’t alone and I was going to have to pace myself. I mean really pace myself while telling people, hence the stages.
I tried groups. That has its pros and cons. I tried individually in person, same. Tried phone, same. Email, same. Text, same. Basically, there is no one completely good way to do it, they all have cons. You have to weigh the pros and the cons and do what works for you, and then accept that there is nothing that really works because you are telling people you love and who love you that you have cancer. Or you are telling people you care about that care about you that you have cancer.
Or you are telling your source of insurance and income that you have cancer. Interestingly, this wasn’t as difficult once the conversation started. They are professionals dealing with this all day every day. I could slip comfortably into clinical mode and just the facts from a distance and it was ok. They told me what I needed to do, what they will provide and what would happen. It was another clear path, like the medical path/flow chart. It turns out that I really like clear, well worn paths that lead to success.
Every now and then I would run into someone that I forgot to tell, or that I thought I told but didn’t. Depending on when it was determined how draining or energizing it was. I enjoy running into people I haven’t seen at work in years who tell me I look great, thin, love my new hairstyle or some such compliment. It turns out I just say thank you, hug them and leave it at that. No need to go into the details, its all over and it is nice to have a moment where I just get to be me, no cancer history, just old pre cancer me for a moment.
Every now and then I run into someone that I thought I knew, that someone in my life would have told and then talk about the entire journey to date. I am embarrassed that I didn’t tell that person. Then talking through the experience is great, I get to be grateful for everything all over again. The nice part of that is the person I am talking with is often grateful, too.
Telling people now is so much better than telling people in the beginning. Just practice, do the best you can, each time do a little better and then be nice to yourself, naps are a good thing and a good way to recharge emotionally.