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Is cancer your best kept secret?

25 Apr 2016 13:35

In the news recently both David Bowie and Victoria Wood died from cancer, but kept it a secret from everyone until the very end. So is it best to hide your diagnosis or just let everyone know from the outset?

When first diagnosed I kept it to myself, I did not want my family to worry unduly and wanted to continue with as normal a life as possible. So I hid the hospital letters, deleted phone call records and went on my own to the clinics. Eventually I needed major surgery (difficult to hide) and then had to let everyone know. My partner was quite angry I'd not told her earlier. However I was gratetful for all the help I got from family and true friends, quite a few people dissapeared off the scene, I'm told this is a normal reaction, whilst others seemed to avoid speaking to me. I guess folks feel awkward and don't know what to say when you've got cancer, while they can easily find something to say if you've a broken leg. Having had this disease for coming up to two years now I am open about having cancer and discuss it freely with anyone. I find that it helps me and also helps those I talk to, understand more about cancer and dispel the many myths there are surrounding cancer.

So what's your take on it, keep it to yourself like David and Victoria, or just let everyone know.

Is cancer your best kept secret?

25 Apr 2016 13:50 in response to kimchoson

Hi Kim, unlike you, I decided from the onset that I was telling people (those close to me) that I had been diagnosed. I've never been one to keep things under cover when it wasn't necessary to do so. It has worked for me because I don't have to start explaining when I have treatments, surgeries, etc. that I'm unable to attend this or that function, or cancel plans at the last minute. In my years of growing up, families kept things private and for me, it just made things a whole lot worse when the news got out. I won't go into detail about what that was but it just didn't work to keep it under wraps. It isn't something I discuss in detail with all and sundry, and only family and close friends know all the details.

It will be interesting to know how others on the forum have handled this one. Thanks for posting.

Lorraine 

Is cancer your best kept secret?

25 Apr 2016 15:37 in response to kimchoson

Hi Kim

Like Lorraine I told family and friends - got it out of the way if you like  - so that when people wanted to arrange things I could just say sorry I cant go its a treatment day - unfortunatly I missed my nieces wedding because of surgery and my uncles funeral because of radiotherapy (both events were not local).

I could also arrange round my treatment and my bad chemo days and everyone understood.

On the other hand If I was famous then I would not have told the wider world because I would not want the unwanted press intrusion which would probably have caused more stress to myself family and friends.  I know some in the public eye have announced their cancer but these are the ones who have had to cancel events or disapear from our screens.

 

Is cancer your best kept secret?

25 Apr 2016 16:24 in response to kimchoson

Hi folks,

This is an interesting thread.

I had to eventually tell Mrs B as she was the one who made me go to my GP. Right from that first appiontment I was fairly sure I had prostate cancer but didnt want to tell Mrs B at that time. As each appiontment passed I sort of raised the warning level. Th worst day was when I had to tell her it had been confirmed as prostate cancer but she took it far better than I could have hoped for. We told the rest of the family at that point and I am so glad I did as I recieved so much help and support which made my journey so much easier.

A couple of years later Mrs B told me why she wasnt worried. She said, "You never let anything get you down and I just knew you would get over it". Womans Intuition. She knows me better than I do myself for when I take her out for a surprise car ride, she always knows where I am going to take her even before I have decided myself ha ha.

I agree with River's point about celebrtities.

Thank you Kim for starting this thread and to Lorrain and River for your contributions, Brian

Is cancer your best kept secret?

25 Apr 2016 16:41 in response to kimchoson

Hi Kim 

i was very similar to you. I went for my appointments on my own and given the diagnosis I played it down to my family. I too didn't want to worry them, it was the beginning of the school summer holidays so my kids  and grandkids were looking forward to the summer. 

When the mastectomy date came I only told my kids. I don't have a parter so it was kept to a small amount  of people. When the chemotherapy started I went on my own and preferred it that way. 

Now that the treatment is finished I talk about it more, which I am comfortable with. I really don't know why I felt that way, maybe it was my way of protecting my family.

Is cancer your best kept secret?

25 Apr 2016 17:33 in response to kimchoson

Interesting post. I can see why celebrities have kept it a secret. On the other hand my dad went to the doctors the beginning of October who told him there and then they thought he had cancer which he chose to share with us. He passed away 3 weeks later, 3 days after being diagnosed. My point is, he must of known how poorly he was (within reason) the months prior to it. Looking back he had so many excuses why he'd lost some weight, or why he couldn't do something. He was building a garage last year and hadn't finished tiling the roof and kept coming up with excuses why not, the wheelbarrow had a puncture, he thought it was going to rain when it was sunny! He'd lost weight because he stopped drinking beer. Whether it was denial or what all I can say is it hurt like hell that he went so quickly. It left no time to get your head around it. I know my mum hurts that he never said anything to her after being married over 40 years.

Is cancer your best kept secret?

25 Apr 2016 17:57 in response to kimchoson

Hi Kim,

I comment from the other side of the fence so to speak as it was my husband who was diagnosed.  In the  beginning he told me he was having a private MOT through work (his boss told me he was sending him as he was having problems at work which he had  not shared with me).  He chose to go to all appointments up to and including diagnosis without taking me along but I think he felt he  needed to come to terms with things first before 'sharing'.  He came home on diagnosis day, told me what he could, broke down (together) and then told me he would not wish to tell others, once the children were told, but would rather leave that to me.  So from then on I was his 'informant' and kept people up to date. 

I think it all comes down to an individual's coping mechanism and I had a close friend who spent 23 yrs dealing with the cancer journey and she was open from day one.  A very interesting thread to start Kim.  Jules x

Is cancer your best kept secret?

25 Apr 2016 19:27 in response to kimchoson

Hi Kim

since my cancer was only found whilst I was on the operating table and prior to going under I signed the consent form allowing them to contact my son after surgery and let him know good or bad.  Never for a minute thought it would be cancer, he knew before me. Good thing or bad thing? Well guess he could get to grips with it before facing me.

All turned out well and I've been open about it.  I can understand why people would want to keep it quiet though.

Strangely enough I went to chemo treatments (all of them) on my own.... Guess I felt more comfortable with that.

JB

Is cancer your best kept secret?

25 Apr 2016 22:16 in response to JB45

Hi All

There is a good selection of viewpoints here, with hindsight I would have been open from the start, especially as I hurt my partner of nearly 40 years by trying to protect her from bad news, she took it as not having trust in her. Also people then know why you didnt turn up for that party, or dinner, or work and I was surprised just how many people helped me out with practical stuff.

I see on the BBC website this afternoon there is an article on this very same subject, you can read it here.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36130760

Kim

Is cancer your best kept secret?

25 Apr 2016 22:28 in response to kimchoson

Hi kim,

really good question! I'm uncertain at the moment if I have cancer, however I haven't told everyone... I'm stubborn and head strong, but I don't want people pittying me, I think that's why only my husband and sisters know. I suppose I'm scared of actually saying it out loud, some how it makes the c word real? But like you say, what do you say to someone with cancer? Get well soon? I think it's one of those where everyone is different, but I pray one day they'll find the cure, so people don't have to suffer the misery it causes ! I hope you kick cancers butt ! 

Is cancer your best kept secret?

25 Apr 2016 22:53 in response to Leodon82

Hi Leodon

I think thats a good point about not wanting pity. I do think it should be quite normal for people to wish cancer sufferers to "get well soon" because you can feel well at times throughout having cancer even if it can't be cured. I've had a second round of surgery and radiotherapy quite recently but today I've felt really good. I got up early did half a days work by 10:00 then finished, visited the Optitian, got new glasses (amazing), PM did a some gardening and made a curry for dinner. As normal as anyone elses day today, of course tomorrow may be totally different and I spend the whole day cream crackered sat in my chair. But it is good to educate others that you can have periods of leading a fairly normal life after a diagnosis of cancer. I hope that your diagnosis is not cancer but if it is, as you say we can kick cancers butt together. Thanks for your post. Kim

Is cancer your best kept secret?

25 Apr 2016 23:31 in response to kimchoson

Hi kim, thanks for getting in touch. One day there will be a cure, but at least we don't pity each other on here, nobody looks down on you, nor judges you - it's fantastic. But woweee you've been busy! Hope you get some well earned rest! Donna x

Is cancer your best kept secret?

26 Apr 2016 00:15 in response to kimchoson

Crikey, this one has had a lot of reaction in such a short space of time! If I was unfortunate enough to be a celebrity, I too would restrict the news to close friends and family. 

My own reaction probably had as much to do with my family history as anything. I'd been a close relative to two people (my Mum and my Grandad) who had been cancer patients and knew that I appreciated their honesty from the outset. We were a traditionally English family, not given to emotional outpourings or drama, both of them just got on with the job of fighting this horrible disease with the minimum of fuss. 

So I was as open and honest about it as possible, when it was my turn. My wife was involved in all the meetings from the Upper GI consultant giving me the preliminary diagnosis through to getting the CT scan results following chemo - I'm not sure I could have gone through them on my own. 

For practical reasons I made sure my immediate colleagues were aware of my situation ... hard for someone who hadn't had a single day off sick in years to hide my disappearance for tests, scans and eventually chemo sessions. If I'd not said why I was taking time off, people's imaginations would have filled in the gaps and wrong conclusions jumped to. I'd enough tocope with, without having to dispel speculation and rumour lol   

I didn't have the problem of pitying looks or comments - though I did get the odd well-meant but irritating comments along the lines of "but you can't have cancer, you look so well." 


Best wishes
Dave

 

Is cancer your best kept secret?

26 Apr 2016 04:31 in response to kimchoson

I told family and friends immediately.  They were amazing and have travelled my journey with me, coming on holidays, days out, lunches and constant visits.  Now things are getting a bit difficult, and communication isnt always possible they understand and check with my daughter before bombarding me with questions.  It took a year before I accepted I had cancer (was sure they had made a mistake).  When friends come round we spend 5 minutes discussing how I felt and what was happening and that was it, I had got it off my chest and they knew where I was at. Then we chat about life as we used to.

I had one friend, of 20 years, who just disappeared,  but that's okay, I can deal with anything now.  Well, almost anything.

Is cancer your best kept secret?

26 Apr 2016 23:50 in response to kimchoson

Kim, that's exactly how my mum felt, that my dad didn't trust her to share how he was feeling after 40+ years of marriage. So hard for her to get to grips with. I sure it was part denial and part not wanting to stress her out of worry her...