Saturday, 24 May 2014

How I Told My Friends I Had Cancer...

Taken 6 days before I was diagnosed.
I was thinking back the other day, about when and how I told my friends that I had cancer.. in hindsight I probably could have handled it better and probably should have told them straight away. But I didn't. Telling my friends that I had been diagnosed with cancer, I knew, wasn't going to be easy. I'm not one of those people who likes to tell others every single last detail of their personal life, or 'you'll never guess what happened to me today.. well I'm going to tell you!' kind of person... I see a lot of people, especially on facebook, documenting every single little thing that has happened to them either with a 'selfie' or a picture of the incident taken literally as soon as it has happened... be it a nosebleed, a paper cut or falling down the stairs.
So when it came to me telling my friends, I literally just dropped it into conversation like it was completely normal and something that happened on a daily basis. I was diagnosed on the 20th June 2013 and the majority of my friends didn't find out until the 1st July 2013... so a good 12 days later. I put up a status on my facebook profile, thanking the handful of friends who already knew about my leukaemia diagnosis for their love and support. The exact message was..

 'Just wanted to say a massive thank you for the love and support since I came into hospital with Leukemia. I really appreciate the messages and I shall get back to you as soon as I can, so thank you.  xxx'

Now, I know putting it up on Facebook a lot of people won't agree with. Something as serious as cancer should probably be told in person or over the phone, not something to be stumbled upon as your friends are scrolling through their newsfeed. However, I didn't want to call anyone. I didn't want to say that I was in hospital. I didn't want to see anyone. I just didn't want to have to verbally communicate with any of my friends. I knew that if I called one person, I'd have to call them all... and in doing that each call would end up progressively worse than the last and I would have ended up either a hysterical mess at the end of the conversation, or a complete mess as soon as they picked up the phone, unable to get any words out.

Prior to breaking my cancer diagnosis to my friends, I'd been texting them whilst I was in hospital acting like everything was wonderful... conversations of, 'How are you?' and 'How has your day been?' My response was, 'I'm great thanks! How are you lovely?!' and 'Yeah, it's been pretty boring actually! Ha! You had a good day?' ...for me this was so much easier to do than actually a) acknowledge the situation I was in, or b) send back an essay of a message, all about my day of lying in bed, being checked over by doctors and nurses and continuously having blood and platelets and drugs pumped into me. I didn't want to bother anyone. I didn't want to burden them with how my life had suddenly been turned upside down. I didn't want them to have to feel how I was feeling... so for me, it was easier to act like nothing was going on and I was lounging about at home like I'd normally be doing during the summer, watching Jeremy Kyle and Honey Boo Boo! Ha! A handful of my close friends did find out several days after I was diagnosed as my Mum had sent them a message, although she had asked them not to say anything until I was ready, as I was reluctant for her to tell anybody in the first place.

Once more and more people started to find out, there were messages, cards, presents and 'get well' wishes... one thing about being critically ill, is that a lot of people start to pop up who you haven't spoken to in years... people who you know weren't bothered about you before.. people who had treated you really badly.. so why were they bothered now?! But I'll post about that at a later date..

I don't know if there is a right or wrong way to go about telling your friends when you're critically or seriously ill. For me, this was the only way I could deal with telling people. If it happens to me all over again, honestly, I think I'll end up doing exactly the same thing and won't tell anybody until I feel like I'm ready to tell them, or I feel that they should know what is going on. I'm good at putting on a smile and acting like everything is okay. I don't want to put my friends in a situation where I know that they'll feel upset or scared for me. All those emotions that I went through when I was first diagnosed... the tears, the sleepless nights, the fears that I wouldn't see tomorrow... I didn't want them to feel the same way, which was why I held off telling them.

It's always going to be hard, no matter how you tell people.

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  1. I do agree with you Emily. It’s always hard to tell your friends that you have cancer. It’s a conflict between being very honest with them and trying not to appear too vulnerable in their eyes. Because once you tell them, they will get that very sorry look in their eyes every time they look at you. But you know what, I’m sure you have better friends than that. And I am sure that you will pull through that. Wishing you all the best!

    Aubrey Holloway @ Primary Care

    1. Thank you Aubrey and thank you for your wishes. Hope you're having a lovely weekend! xx