Dear Doctor, How do I tell my family I have cancer?

One of the hardest things to do is to tell your loved ones you have cancer. Not only do you have the shock of receiving the news yourself and processing it. But then you start worrying about how it will affect your family and friends. A lot of people have told me they worry for others than themselves and feel guilty for burdening them with it. Here is how my friend found that first 24 hours of being a ‘cancer patient’.

The biopsy results are back … and it has shown … it is cancer. What?!! I  actually have cancer! Me?!! Why? What have I ever done wrong in life to deserve cancer. I’m not a bad person, why is this happening to me? I couldn’t help those feelings, I took a moment to put my head down and cried. I have cancer! I looked up but all I heard was mastectomy and chemotherapy. The moment you are told it feels like a bomb has gone off and you’re in the middle of a massive explosion, people are talking but you can’t hear them, everything is in slow motion. I think that’s when the shock really kicked in a little. 

Would you like a drink… tea please it’s all wanted. I was done with trying to listen, nothing was sinking in and I think that’s when the consultant realised. We were taken into another room and given loads of leaflets and a cup of tea! Everyone was texting to find out the results, I’m not telling them I physically couldn’t bring myself to do it. When anything good or bad goes on in our lives at home my big sister is always the one to turn to. 

I asked my friend M to call her, you need to phone her and tell her for me. Ok M replied. I was so nervous and scared. This wasn’t something I could just fix and get away with, this was real life….I was still in shock. 

I wanted to shout, just leave me alone everyone I don’t want to tell you I have cancer! It’s my problem!I have to deal with it, why am I going to drag everyone else down with me, it’s my issue! Then M passed me the phone she’s adamant she wants to speak to you…I tried to avoid but knew I had to. I took the phone I wanted to tell her sorry, I’m sorry we are going to have to go through all this together, but the words didn’t come out and I cried my eyes out for the first time in a long time. My sister told me it would be ok she kept saying it and crying too. I asked her to tell everyone else, I didn’t know how to tell my Mum and Dad. After that call M phoned our other friend S who was having her makeup done for her sisters wedding which we had to get to! She told us she would understand if we didn’t want to face the wedding. No this cancer won’t change me. I came to have a good time at my best friends sisters wedding! 

Right I thought after an hour or two and several messages to family and knowing my mum and Dad knew, I wasn’t going to think about it anymore! My big sister told me to phone the parents, I did but each time we would just break down over the phone, it was too raw. I let them know I’m fine, I’m going to this wedding and would see them tomorrow. 

The wedding was a really good escape from it all. I saw my best friend S. She gave me a kiss on the cheek not something we do often, barely hug! But it said it all they had my back I knew then I could rely on everyone’s support massively. I felt normal for a bit during the wedding, I went about things as normal, although I was looking at all my close friends knowing I would have to tell them at some point. After the wedding we walked up to our car laughing after the day we had M couldn’t walk from the hall to the car, her feet were hurting in her heels! It felt great! Our normal silly selves. We got back to the hoteI had a shower got into bed. We talked for a while, trying to make sense of it all. M knocked out we hadn’t slept well for a few days but I couldn’t sleep, everything kept running through my mind! I didn’t want to face the family tomorrow. I was sad, very sad. I cried a lot that night. Next morning I still was too afraid to go home. I didn’t want to think about it. 

We went for afternoon tea I didn’t want to cancel plans we had already made. We talked about the plan. I told her I didn’t want to go home but knew I had to. We drove to M’s house after what felt like a week away. I was so confused I didn’t even know what day it was. I was nervous about seeing M’s parents but it was ok I guess everyone was just as nervous to see me. What do you say to a person who has just been told they have cancer do you act normal do you act concerned? Anyway it turned out to be fine, we met talked a bit about it and then decided right it’s time to go face my own family. 

I drove back home trying to be brave..I’m not going to let myself get down,I need to stay as strong as I can to get through this. As I parked outside my house I got butterflies in my stomach. My mum had seen me she had been desperately waiting for me. She hadn’t slept a wink. She opened the door gave me a massive hug and cried her eyes out. I was so glad I managed to stay strong I told her to stop crying it will be fine. My dad walked downstairs at that point he gave me a hug too, not something he does often, yes he said it will be ok. I saw my brother for a brief second he looked at me I could see the sadness in his face. Right I said need to sort my things out but before I could get upstairs everyone wanted to know the plan. 

What’s the plan Mum kept asking are you having an operation? I told her yes a mastectomy then chemotherapy. I didn’t mention the egg freezing. She seemed broken and hurt by the sound of it all. I couldn’t believe where I was getting my strength from how I was being so brave. Dad wasn’t there at the time but I felt too embarrassed to tell him anyway. I wasn’t comfortable talking about things like boobs with my dad. I didn’t know how I would explain they were going to have to do a mastectomy or how he would react and there was no way I was telling him about the egg freezing. A few hours later he too kept asking about the plan I told him I don’t know Dad chemotherapy maybe I’m not sure. I spoke to my Mum, I told her you need to tell Dad what’s happening because he wants to know but it’s all just a bit embarrassing as an Asian girl to tell your dad there going to remove your full breast. I felt bad for him though noone felt comfortable enough to tell him what was going on. 

I went to my room few hours later broken, my body felt like it did the after my biopsy test just shattered to pieces. Wishing all this would just go away now. I didn’t have to energy to tell my close friends I will text them all in the morning I thought and then finally I fell asleep…

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