if you have read some of my other stuff, you know that we’ve been here before. it’s one of the uncomfortable ironies of being diagnosed with a scary illness: at the same time as you are feeling sick, scared and completely overwhelmed, you are often also facing the task of managing the fear, worries and perceptions of those around you — making others feel better. this woman, however, was choosing not to take this on. instead, she planned to keep the news all in the family, with the exception of her young children.
at the same time as you are feeling sick, scared and completely overwhelmed, you are often also facing the task of managing the fear, worries and perceptions of those around you — making others feel better. it’s why some choose to keep their diagnosis a secret. getty
he rhymed off the implications of sharing her diagnosis with others: uncomfortable friends who no longer come around because they don’t know what to say, playdates that dry up because families worry about imposing, or worse, that their own children will become scared and worried, and work colleagues who decide that she is not up to the responsibilities of her job, and thus stop engaging her. his voice cracked with fatigue. we talked about what a shame it was that she couldn’t just take this time to focus on herself and doing what she needs to do to prepare for what might very well be the fight of her life, instead of worrying about what others would think.
years ago, at one of the first patient and caregiver meetings that i hosted for people living with leukemia, i met a woman who had been diagnosed five years before. the group, about 50 people, had been talking about how they shared the news of their diagnosis with others. after listening to stories of serious discussions at kitchen tables and over coffee, and the countless long-distance phone calls, the woman stood up, clutching a small blue purse in one hand, and some balled-up kleenex in the other, and began describing her life since starting an oral treatment for blood cancer.