How, What, and When Do We Tell Our Close Family and Friends We Have Cancer?

So I’d been diagnosed with bladder cancer. It was probably the most shocking news I had ever received. I never thought at 53 years of age I would be doing “battle” with an advanced, aggressive cancer. The thought had just never entered my head. Yet here I was about to start on my own cancer journey.

I remember turning up at the Doctors office with my parents, as they had insisted on taking me for this particular appointment. I always said that my mum had a “sixth sense”. It was an early morning appointment and my parents lived an hours drive from me. Plus it was then a further 40 minutes drive to the doctors office. I really didn’t want to trouble them, but Mum was particularly insistent.

In fact it turned out that I was really glad that my parents were with me that day. After my cancer had been identified the nurse who was stood behind the Doctor, looking very empathetic and worried asked if there was anything she could do. “Please get my Mum” I said.

Telling my parents

The nurse went outside into the waiting area and brought my rather confused and worried looking Mother in. I was still getting dressed at the time. I asked my Doctor to tell my Mum what he had just told me. He requested that my mum sit down. As I continued to get dressed he began explaining that he had found a large tumor inside my bladder. My mum’s first words were “oh my god, no”. For that split second I thought my mum was going to “crumble”. But being the very strong woman that she is, she quickly composed herself and started asking lots of questions.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

I was now dressed and sat next to my Mum, I then realised that poor Dad was still outside in the waiting room and must be wondering what the heck was going on. So I asked my Doctor if he would call my Dad in and explain to him too.

Looking back now I’m so glad that my parents were with me that day, as I’ve no idea how I could have gone about telling them. Dad too had lots of questions, whilst I just sat there in a bit of a blurry daze.

Telling my eldest son

The drive home was quiet, I was still trying to take it all in. We eventually arrived at my home. My best friend had come to visit and was staying with us at the time. Again another “spooky” coincidence. We three walked in, I needed the bathroom and went to go immediately upstairs, I hadn’t noticed my eldest son was in the living room. What I did hear was my Mum telling my son, “your Mums got cancer”. I don’t know if I was angry or relieved as I felt I should have sat him down and told him in some quiet, sympathetic way. But there it was, it was out there now and to be honest it did make it easier for me by my Mum giving him the news.

Telling my close friends

After I came out of the bathroom I went to the bedroom were my friend was sleeping. I woke her up to tell her. She nearly fell out of that bed. I went downstairs and she followed. My parents and my son all looked totally stunned. None of us were expecting this news. My parents left and I rang my other 3 best friends and asked them to come over, now.

Once all three had arrived I gave them the news. “I’ve got cancer” I said. Lots of hugs and tears were exchanged then I realised I had yet to tell my husband. He was at work, and I certainly couldn’t give him this news over the phone. I would wait until later that evening to tell him. “No” my friend said, “he needs to be here with you now”. So I rang him at work with some cock and bull story that our dog was ill and needed to go to the vets.

Telling my husband

My friends left as my husband turned up at the back of our house. He came in, I immediately burst in to tears and told him, the dog was fine, but I’ve got cancer.

So that was the start of me telling my loved ones. There was just one problem. Our youngest son had just moved to the Netherlands 2 months previously, to go and study for his masters degree. He was settling in well and was just about to start his studies. My husband and my eldest son and I decided that we wouldn’t tell him just yet. After all it might all be sorted out with the scheduled TURBT. But that wasn’t to be. I ended up having 2 TURBT’s which identified me as having a high grade aggressive bladder cancer. I was told I would need to have my bladder removed and to “get my affairs in order”. I was shocked, did this mean they thought I may die?

Eventually telling my youngest son

The coming weeks were extremely difficult and I still hadn’t told my youngest son. Something that I knew I had to do. The only way I could do this was with a phone call. I hated the thought of him being there alone when I told him. But I’d put it off for as long as I could. The call was made, my son was very calm and wanted to know everything about my cancer. Along with how long had I known. By this point we had known for a few months. He went mad that I hadn’t told him straightaway. In fact he was furious, but I was just trying to protect him. He didn’t see it like that, he said he should have been informed at the same time his brother was and not left for weeks.

He did get over his upset with me, but made me promise never to keep anything away from him again. A promise that I plan to keep.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.