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a man talking to his three kids

A Different View: Reflecting on How I Told My Family

Our kids were teens when I was diagnosed. Decisions had to made about what and when to tell them about my cancer. These are hard decisions and choices. There is no checklist with timelines and notations. You make the best decisions you can and proceed.

We waited to tell the kids about my bladder cancer

My wife Janet and I chose to wait until we had answers. I prefer to work with facts and leave the “what ifs” alone as best I can. I do not remember exactly the point in this journey when we sat down with the kids and told them, but I do know it was later rather than sooner. I also know that the waiting hurt feelings and caused some resentment. It was never intended, and we have talked about the choices that were made and the reasons for those choices.

Understanding the reasons behind our choices

Our kids have a great willingness to call and tell us when life has allowed them to experience something we, as parents, were right about or when they come to a place of understanding of why we did what we did. I have and continue to appreciate that trait in all 3 of them.

Discovering a new mass in the family dog

So it is that our story begins. Crystal (our daughter) has a rescue Basset named Flash. I have written about him in the past. Flash had a bout of bladder cancer in the summer of 2019 and recovered well. But his last checkup discovered a mass in his anal gland. Now decisions had to made about what to say and when. We are a very tight-knit family, and that extends to our pets. Since Crystal travels for her work and her husband is a trucker, Flash spends about half his time with us. We are all extremely emotionally invested in this floppy-eared, lazy, old dog.

Our daughter chose to wait until she had answers

Crystal chose to not say anything until she knew what to say. She decided to wait and get answers before she got everyone worried and upset. As soon as she had those answers, she got us together and delivered the news that Flash’s cancer had a recurrence and was in his anal glands. His prognosis is good and we have full confidence in his medical team.

A burden lifted

We were all in tears as Crystal shared how she now understood the difficulty of deciding when to tell everyone. She told us she was sorry for resenting our decisions now that she had experienced the need to make those same decisions. Her willingness to share that lifted a burden I have carried for 13 years. “Should I have done things differently?” “Did I make the right decisions?”

Deciding how, when, and who to tell about your cancer

If you are newly diagnosed, you will need to decide when and who to tell, what to tell them and what to hold back. Guy Wheatley and Jim Van Horne are both Community Advocates here and have written great pieces about telling family and the reactions. I know there are others. If you need some insight, reading other advocates’ stories may be helpful. Everyone who has ever been diagnosed has had to face these challenges, so there are lots of stories about success and challenges.

Be gentle with yourself

There is not a right way and a wrong way to let people know. There is only the way that works best for you in your individual situation and circumstance. Please do not add to your stress and anxiety by trying to find the correct or perfect way and time. Trust your instincts and be gentle with yourself. In the words of my greatest mentor and life coach, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Suess.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.