Cancer affects the whole family – not just the person who has it. It changes family roles and disrupts routines. Before you talk to anyone, think through your own feelings, your reasons for telling them, and what you expect of them. Know that people will react differently to upsetting news.
In general, it is better to be open and honest about your cancer – keeping secrets can take up a lot of energy and create more stress for you
If you have a partner, be prepared for the fact that the stress of an uncertain future can put a strain on your relationship. It can be dicult to be open with each other and share how frightened you are. You may feel your partner is not being as supportive or open as you would like.
Remember that, just as you may sometimes feel like you’re on a rollercoaster of different emotions, your partner very likely will too. He or she may feel helpless and angry that there is nothing they can do to help you. Even the best relationships have their ups and downs, and you may not always feel the same as your partner on any given day.
! Being honest with each other about how you are feeling can help you both to
deal with the challenges of metastatic breast cancer.
This can be a particularly diffcult time for people who don’t have the support of a long-term partner. Being single shouldn’t make having cancer any harder, but you do have some different challenges and worries.
When you look at your social group, you may find that there are more people ready to help you than you realised.
There are home healthcare services available for you when you need them, even for things like providing transport to your appointments. To find out more please contact FoCP.
Many women with metastatic breast cancer (MBC), regardless of their life situation, find it very helpful to talk with a psycho-oncologist or counsellor.
If you’re dating, you may be unsure of how and when to share the news that you have cancer with a new romantic partner. Trust yourself to be the judge of the best time to bring it up. Do try to give your partner a chance to deal with it – don’t assume they’ll back away from your relationship because of the cancer. Whatever their reaction, you’re not at fault for sharing the news at a ‘bad time.’
You may find it helps to practise what you will say with a friend before talking with your new partner.
Young children will react based on how adults are reacting. How and what you tell them will depend on their age and how much they can understand. Even very young children will sense when something is seriously wrong and may become frightened and confused. It is best to be honest with them as early as possible.
There are people who can help children cope with the emotions they may be feeling and the changes happening in your family. You can ask your doctor or your child’s school for outside help to make sure your children are getting everything they need.
Don’t be afraid of using the word ‘cancer’ with them. It’s important for them to distinguish between the serious condition you have and a common cold. This will help them understand that your illness is not just a matter of a few days, but will last a long time.
Even if your children are adults, they may initially find it hard to absorb what you have told them. They may need time to think about what you have said and what it can mean for them.
If your children are very young, it may help to practice the kind of language you want to use beforehand, to keep things simple and avoid complicated explanations.
that you’re going to die and they might ask you about your treatment, or why your cancer has come back.
Sometimes children try to protect their mother by hiding their curiosity or feelings. It may help to actively ask your child whether they have any questions and explain to them that you are always there to answer any queries they may have.
There are many resources available online and through cancer support groups to help you hold this conversation, with examples of the words to use. Try out something that works for you. You can direct older children to appropriate MBC websites; however, this should be done with caution and with heavy guidance as there can be information which is misleading, unreliable or inaccurate.
You do not need to tell everyone right away – take your time.✓
Keeping secrets or trying to protect other people is natural, but it can drain your energy.✓
Children and adults will respond best to honesty, but be prepared for a variety of reactions, or even no reaction at all.✓
There are resources available to support your children and help you with daily life so you can keep things as ‘normal’ as possible.