When Your Family Is Embarrassed By Your Cancer—Some Words of Encouragement and Sanity

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Can you imagine being bombarded with a diagnosis like breast cancer and then announcing it to your family—only to be told your disease is embarrassing and you shouldn’t tell anyone?

Well that’s exactly what happened to this cancer survivor and Reddit user. She was 31 when she told her mother she had breast cancer, just a few years after her maternal grandmother had died of the disease. In her Reddit thread, she writes:

Mom:

“Did you hear from the doctor?”

Me:

“Yes. I have breast cancer. I’ll find out next week how far it has spread.”

Mom:

“Oh my God. This is so embarrassing. How could you do this to me? Do not tell ANYONE!”

Me:

“Shouldn’t I tell (sister and cousin)? It may be genetic.”

Mom:

“No, it’s not. You exposed yourself to something. Ugh, I am so EMBARRASSED!”

She hung up on her mother after that and continued her cancer journey on her own without the maternal support she’d hoped for. Thankfully, she reports having gone through chemotherapy and radiation and having been declared cancer-free nine months before writing the post.

This Redditor’s journey without familial support was certainly a difficult one, although we’re glad her story had a happier ending than its beginning. Strangers on Reddit were both angered by the mother’s response and inspired by the woman’s own perseverance. Here are just a few of the encouraging things they’ve said and the stories they had to share.

(NOTE: some comments have been edited for length, punctuation errors, or clarity.)


A similar story.

“When I was going through treatment, my mom was on HRT [hormone replacement therapy]. I told her that now that she has a family history of breast cancer, she should probably stop. Her reaction? ‘I don’t have a family history of cancer. You got that from your dad.'” —Reddit user blandarchy

A congratulatory note.

“Congrats on being cancer free! And congrats on hanging up on your mom.” —Reddit user oreocookielove


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Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?