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Telling Your Loved Ones That You Have Breast Cancer

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Tell your family about your breast cancer

When you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, the sense of personal shock and devastation will likely overwhelm all other considerations at first. But once those initial moments pass, the first thing that will come to your mind is all of the other people who will be affected by this news. None of us lives in isolation; we are all embedded in a network of family and friends who care for us and who are affected by anything that happens to us, good or bad. So when terrible news like this comes, we have to decide who we are going to share it with, and how we are going to tell them.

Telling Those Who Love you the Most
There are some people in our lives, however, with whom there is no option. Your spouse, children, siblings and parents if they are still alive need to hear this news as soon as possible, and they should learn it directly from you. When you tell them, it should be done with as much hopefulness and optimism as you can muster. This might seem difficult given the circumstances and it might even seem a little unfair and inappropriate that you should be expected to put on a brave face for the benefit of others when it is you and no one else who has been afflicted with this terrible disease. But you must remember: the one thing that most people fear above all else is the prospect of losing a wife, mother, or child prematurely.

These could be very hard conversations indeed. But perhaps the hardest of all will be the conversations you will have to have with your daughters, if you have them – especially if your daughters are grown women. Having a history of breast cancer in the family among your closest female relatives is a significant risk factor for this disease, and this is something that you must talk about honestly with your daughters.

Expanding Your Network of Support
Beyond immediate family, the choice of who to tell, or how many people to tell, is entirely up to you. Some women feel more at ease having everyone know, so they do not feel the burden of trying to keep a personal secret. Other women consider this an intimately private matter, and are reluctant to tell anyone about it. Most probably fall in between these two extremes, so the process of deciding who to tell and who not to tell definitely takes some thought.

In pondering this decision, there are two questions you should ask yourself. First, who are the people in my life outside of my immediate family that I trust the most? And second, what is it exactly that I am expecting from people after they hear the news? As to the first question, the chances are that you have already had some hard times in your life, and that there were certain people who were there for you giving you their full support in those difficult moments. In all likelihood, these are the same people you will be able to trust to be there for you now. Even if this crisis is bigger and scarier than any you have faced before, past behavior is still the best predictor of future behavior and the people who have proven you can count on them in the past in most cases will be there for you even more strongly when the trouble gets bigger.

The second question is just as important as the first, because when you do decide to tell others you need to have a clear idea in your mind about what exactly you need and want from them. Are you looking for sympathy or a shoulder to cry on when you are feeling especially vulnerable and fearful? Or do you want positive energy exclusively, to help keep your fighting spirits high and your optimism intact? Or perhaps you want some advice on how to proceed from someone whose wise council you have come to respect. In most instances, what you probably want is a mixture of all of these things, depending on how you are feeling at a particular moment. Knowing what kind of support you hope to get can guide you when it comes to choosing who to tell, and when to tell them, because you will know how the people in your life are and how they are likely to respond in the face of this kind of crisis. However, you should be prepared for the reality that human behavior is never perfectly predictable, and you can never be sure exactly how others will respond to news of this magnitude. Nevertheless, if you are like most people you are going to need a lot of support to get through something like this. Therefore, the best course of action is simply to trust your instincts, and have faith that the people who matter the most in your life will be there for you when you need them, giving you exactly the kind of help, comfort, and reassurance you need.

You Are Not Alone
Breast cancer does not just happen to an individual, it happens to a community of individuals, and everyone who shares in that community of love and friendship will be affected by a diagnosis of breast cancer and everything that comes after. To a certain extent, it may seem like a burden to have to worry about how others are reacting to what is happening to you. But on the other hand, when things are difficult, and you are at your lowest points during the potentially long struggle against this insidious disease, you are going to feel grateful and thankful for all of the people who are standing tirelessly and unselfishly with you and beside you in your hour of greatest need.

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