Telling the Parents
I've seen many resources that provide advice on how to tell your children that you have cancer.
But what about the other generation - your parents?
Family relationships are sometimes complicated, so I don't presume to know what's best for you and your family, but some guidelines might be helpful.
In general, it's a good idea to talk openly with your parents about your cancer. Keeping secrets consumes energy when you could better use that energy for your own healing. And, if you don't tell your parents, someone else probably will.
But be prepared for your parents having a very emotional response to your cancer diagnosis, even if it's a cancer that's routinely curable. They will hear the word "cancer" and immediately assume the worst. Losing a child is a parent's worst fear.
Telling your parents might even uncover useful information about your family's medical history. A generation ago, there was a much greater stigma attached to cancer so it wasn't often discussed, even within the family. Maybe they never told you that your grandmother and several aunts had breast cancer. This kind of information is important and should be shared with your physicians.
Problems sometimes arise with parents because they just want to help. This is especially true if they try to influence treatment decisions or otherwise exert control. You may need to gently remind them that you're the decision-maker on all matters relating to your illness.
This is one time in which it's absolutely OK for you to focus on what's best for you. If having your parents with you during cancer treatment is beneficial, then welcome them with open arms. If having them present is stressful, suggest other ways for them to contribute.
Tell them that they can always help by sending good thoughts and positive energy. But do try to keep them in the information loop. Everyone feels better when they're included.
Excerpted with permission from When Your Life is Touched By Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care by Bob Riter, copyright (c) 2013, Hunter House Inc., Publishers.
From the Ithaca Journal, December 4, 2010
Reprinted with permission