Cancer Conversations

Finding the right words can be difficult when you are telling your loved ones, friends, employer, or co-workers about your cancer diagnosis.

Use the following prompts to guide and ease you through your conversations. 

“Mommy (or Daddy) has been sick a lot lately, haven’t I? I have a disease called cancer. My doctors are giving me medicines to help me get better. Sometimes these medicines make me feel sick or tired. I know I don’t get to spend as much time with you as normal, but it doesn’t mean I don’t care as much about you. I love you very much and hope that I’ll be better soon.”

“Using phrases like “Right now everything looks good” or “Daddy is feeling better and the cancer is responding to treatment,” are helpful ways to guide the conversation.
“When talking about the next steps for your treatment, consider saying “I have had the tumor removed and now I have to have chemotherapy to get any stray cancer cells that could not be removed by the operation.”

“Set a positive tone for the conversation when you tell your employer. Your boss will take their cues from your behavior. Consider what facts they will need to know, and how much detail you are willing to share. You may know your general diagnosis, have a treatment schedule planned, and know how side effects may affect your time at work.

Talking to Your Employer

Talking to your employer about your cancer diagnosis can be intimidating. You may be worried about his or her reaction and the way in which you’ll be treated at the office. When approaching this conversation, keep in mind that the law protects you from any type of discrimination. If you’re nervous, get to know these laws before you sit down with your boss. It’s important to be as open and honest as possible—the more your boss knows, the more he or she can help you. 

Don’t Get Caught Off Guard

Going through cancer treatment is challenging enough, without adding the stress and hurt feelings that can result from insensitive comments. Here are some tips to minimize the impact of these remarks as you go through cancer treatment:

  • Surround yourself with supportive people
  • Don’t have expectations of people’s reactions
  • Ask someone close to you to respond on your behalf
  • Avoid becoming defensive
  • Try a form of relaxation to free your mind from any lingering effects of a negative comment
  • Use it as an opportunity to educate the ignorant person about your type of cancer
  • Maintain a sense of humor
  • Have a few snappy comebacks
  • Practice forgiveness . . . after all, most insensitive comments are not intentionally mean—just misguided.