6 Tips for Telling People You Have Cancer

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Reddit user Imgladimetyou_ was diagnosed with breast cancer at the tender age of 27. As she began telling her friends, family, and boss about the unfortunate disease, she found that the news did not get easier to deliver with time, and no way of saying it seemed to improve the reaction of those she told. So she came to the Reddit online community with a question. “Each time I’ve told close friends [and] family so far,” she says, “I feel like I’ve punched them in the face. Advice?”

She explains that her method of telling people might be a bit too blunt and that everyone’s reactions have been very emotional. “Did you ever find a way to tell people so that their initial reaction wasn’t so strong?” she asks. “Or is it something I should just expect?”

In an effort to help Imgladimetyou_ find a way to break the news a little more gently and avoid the extra emotional struggle associated with strong reactions, Reddit users offered their best tips and stories. We’ve collected a few of them below to help you stay sane while you get the word out to your friends and loved ones that you have cancer.

(NOTE: Some comments have been edited for length or clarity.)


6. Use whatever means necessary.

“Yeah, I felt like I kicked a puppy every time I had to tell someone new that my son was diagnosed [with cancer]. Other than close family, I told most people via text/email so I wouldn’t have to deal with their initial reactions. I couldn’t worry about how other people felt about it.” —Reddit user carhop79

5. If they don’t ask, don’t tell.

“Recently, when I feel the need to tell someone, I ask if they have some time to chat (meet for a coffee, etc). I then tell them that I had some tests for a medical concern, and the results were not as I expected. I say that I am getting ready to be treated for the concern, and I do not know what will be happening in the next several months. I let them prod further to see if they want to know what is up. If they don’t ask, I don’t tell. If they ask for details, then I give them the skinny that I have cancer. Some people just do not want to know what you have.” —Reddit user valiamo

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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?