Date: March 15, 2024

Telling people I have cancer

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A person telling people they have cancer, smiling for a selfie with a sunset and an open field in the background.

If you read my first post, then you know what comes next. My next step was the actual horrible part, telling people, I have cancer. It was honestly the one thing I did NOT want to do. There are a lot of bad things you might have to share in your life, but telling people who love you that you have cancer is up there with one of the worst things you can say. Plus, I am a pretty impenetrable person, so this felt like a chink in my armor.

In my day-to-day world, I have had to deliver my share of bad news. Every time I do, I am always thankful it is not life or death bad news. Knowing the bad news I was about to share made me wonder, had all those bad news moments been a blessing? Had they prepared me to deliver this type of bad news? I honestly didn't know, but I knew it had to happen so I might as well get it over with!

My first call was to my husband. Throughout the conversation, he was as stoic, which was something I was counting on. I will always be thankful that we both have a similar mindset: "Deal with it, and move on." So much of life is just situations. You can hide from them and be scared all you want, but sooner or later you have to deal with it, so you might as well get it done! As we were getting ready to hang up, I told my husband, I couldn't believe I had cancer, he replied, "Cancer is just a word." I said, "That is what I thought ten minutes ago when it was just a word to me."

Telling my parents and my sister was tough. I couldn't imagine what it was like for my parents to hear another child, was going to have to go through this, but my parents are steadfast. My dad's immediate response echoed one of his timeless Terry-isms as my sister and I affectionately call them: "This is a temporary situation, not a permanent position." I couldn't agree more, Dad! I told my dad I believed this was a speed bump in my life's path and I just had to get over it. His agreeance was all I needed to hear.

Telling my sister broke my heart, in all honestly it probably broke hers as well. My sister was diagnosed a few years ago so she knew all too well what could potentially lay ahead for me. I knew my sister would have the most questions and I hoped my answers would be enough reassurance for her. After she took it all in, her first words were, how can I support you? I immediately said it was small, it would just be surgery and I would be done, so I was good. (Spoiler alert; I was wrong, but more on that later)

While I know she didn't believe my "I'm good" response, she accepted it and we moved on. For those wondering, my sister and I were diagnosed with two different types of breast cancer. The only thing that matched was that we both had estrogen-driven cancers. However, in the grand scheme, estrogen-driven accounts for the majority of breast cancer diagnoses today so there is not a genetic connection.

After I spoke to my close friends and the shock began to wear off, they all seemed to process the information I could give them pretty well. Since I had waited, I was able to share what type of breast cancer I have, how many tumors, estimated size, and what my stage is. It was clear, concise, and to the point. After I had shared the big news, I then shared how I was diagnosed and what had happened up to this point.

As I worked through my mental list of people to tell, I tried to keep it to only one or two conversations a week, max! Telling people was incredibly exhausting, so I needed to plan for it. I was resolute in the fact that this part of having cancer needed to go at my pace. Plus, I had a lot of thoughts about it and how "well" I would handle this so a bunch of people didn't need to know. I would just let people know when this was all done. Yep, I had it, it's gone, we move on. Feel free to shake your head at me, you wouldn't be the only one(s).

Speed forward about a month, maybe two later, and after a few long conversations with a close friend I was reminded that people love and care about me and want to know these things. I knew it was time. Plus, changes to my appearance were coming, and in no way did I want them to find out through the grapevine. I loved them too much for that to happen.

So, with the help of a few friends, the proverbial phone tree began. Of course, I worried about how people would take the news. Knowing I wouldn't be there to reassure them that everything would be fine and to ease their worries made me feel horrible, but I knew there was no way I could make all those calls and still keep my balance of treatment, healing, and work.

I just had to keep telling myself that, like most things in life, there is no right way, I just had to let it happen. If you haven't guessed, releasing control is not my strong suit, but if there's one thing that starkly reminds you of your lack of control, it's cancer.

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