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How To Tell People You Have Cancer

 If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may not be sure how to tell people you have cancer. It can help to make a plan for telling others about your diagnosis. Make a list of people you want to talk to and be honest about your emotions, especially with close family and friends. You’ll also need to notify your employer and children about the condition. For legal aid in receiving compensation for your mesothelioma from an employer or third party, contact The Lanier Law Firm.


Medically Reviewed By:
Patricia Shelton, M.D.

Patricia Shelton

Medically Reviewed By:Patricia Shelton, M.D.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer with a poor prognosis or survival rate. According to Penn Medicine, the average mesothelioma survival rate is only four to 18 months after diagnosis, and the current five-year survival rate is just 10 percent.

If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you are probably thinking about how to tell people you have cancer. But whom to tell, and when to tell them?

There is no correct way to tell loved ones about mesothelioma and your end-of-life decisions. You can do what feels right for you. If you’re unsure, you may want to consider working with a social worker or mental health therapist to help you decide how to tell others that you have mesothelioma. Either way, there are ways to prepare yourself to tell loved ones about your diagnosis.


Make a Plan

First, plan how you will tell others about your mesothelioma diagnosis. Make a list of people you want to tell, and note who will most likely be supportive.

Then, think about how you’d like to tell them. If you want to avoid having conversations over and over, you can email certain people. Alternatively, you can post updates about your health on social media or have a family member, such as a spouse or child, share your information.

Once you’ve created a list, consider what you’d like to tell people and how to respond to their reactions. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much do I want to tell this person? Some people are more compassionate than others. As a result, you may not want to tell certain people everything about your mesothelioma diagnosis. If someone asks you for more information, you can tell them that you’re not ready to talk about it.
  • How can they help me? If you want people’s emotional and logistical help, you can tell them. Conversely, if you don’t need their help, you can tell them you already have the support you need. Also, think about how certain people can help you in unique ways — some people are better at listening when you’re sad, while others are better at running errands like driving you to the hospital or cooking meals.
  • Do I want them to share my news with others? Thanks to social media, news can spread like wildfire. If you don’t want everyone to know about your diagnosis, tell people that you don’t want them to share the information with others.

Pinpoint and Share Your Feelings

Next, figure out how you feel. Pinpointing your emotions will empower you to process your emotions and determine the kind of support you need. According to a 2021 study, the most common emotional needs for mesothelioma victims were increased awareness and knowledge about psychosocial support, specific resources, and active coping mechanisms.

Once you’re ready to tell others about your feelings and diagnosis, be honest about your feelings, especially with close family and friends. It’s normal to feel frustrated, scared, and depressed. However, suppressing your negative emotions and acting cheerful when you don’t feel that way will damage your emotional well-being in the long run. It can also put distance between you and your loved ones.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking about your emotions with your friends and family, consider joining a mesothelioma support group. These groups may improve your quality of life and emotional well-being by connecting you with people who are going through the same experiences. They can also help you cope with treatment, provide an increased sense of hope, and find solutions for practical problems.

couples comforting each other

Think About Ways to Respond When People Are Unhelpful

People often respond in unpredictable ways. Even close friends and family may say things that seem offensive, callous, or unhelpful. For instance, they may:

  • Offer unwanted advice or opinions about your end-of-life decisions
  • Offer treatment or advice recommendations that you didn’t ask for
  • Share irrelevant stories about other people’s cancer journeys

If this happens, put your emotions first. Be direct — tell them that you don’t want their advice and that you don’t want to talk about certain opinions or topics.


Tell Your Employer About Your Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Before telling your employer about your diagnosis, talk to your healthcare provider to see if treatment will impact your work schedule. Your treatment may only be available during work hours. You may also need several weeks of rest to recover from certain treatments, such as surgery.

Once you have a clear idea of how your treatment will impact your work schedule, you can tell your employer about your diagnosis. Keep the following in mind before you schedule a meeting with your employer:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act protects your job as you undergo cancer treatment. In most cases, your employer must comply with your treatment schedule and grant you time off for appointments.
  • If side effects from treatments will impact your work, request accommodations from your manager and the human resources department.
  • If you have supportive coworkers, consider sharing your diagnosis with them. This can boost morale and give you the support you need in the workplace.
  • Keep records of emails, conversations, accommodation requests, and other interactions with your employer about your cancer. If you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit against an asbestos manufacturer for your mesothelioma diagnosis, your lawyer can use these records to maximize compensation.

Don't Hide Your Condition From Children

You may hesitate to tell kids about your mesothelioma, especially if they’re under 10 years old. However, minimizing or hiding your mesothelioma diagnosis can make children more scared than they would be if you told them the truth.

For children under 10, you can simply tell them what mesothelioma and cancer is, what treatment you will get, and how it will affect their lives. However, you should provide children over 10 more information, such as your prognosis or life expectancy.

You also need to be prepared to answer questions as honestly and openly as possible. Follow these tips to prepare for conversations about your condition with children:

  • Write notes on what you’re going to say.
  • Make sure your negative emotions have subsided before talking to your kids.
  • Think about questions the child may ask, and think of ways to answer them.
  • Tell your kids that you don’t have all the answers.
  • Tell your kids that it’s not their fault you’re suffering.
  • Tell your kids how their lives may change once you start treatment. You may also want to discuss how their lives may change after your death.
  • Share books for teens and children about cancer.
  • Schedule fun family trips and gatherings.
a young girl hugging a elderly man

Get Legal Help for Your Mesothelioma Diagnosis Today

A mesothelioma diagnosis can be traumatizing and exhausting for you and your family, especially since mesothelioma has a poor prognosis.

The Lanier Law Firm has decades of experience litigating mesothelioma and asbestos lawsuits in the U.S. If you developed mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure, we can hold the asbestos manufacturer(s) responsible for your condition. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be entitled to substantial monetary compensation. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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