OCAM - Spreading the News

Date: 03 March 2016

Sharing news of my diagnosis was an enormous undertaking, not because I didn’t want to let people know what was going on, I did, but it wasn’t a once done job. People naturally wanted to be kept updated and I lost track of who knew what.  Close family and friends and work colleagues knew I had been admitted to hospital with what I thought/ hoped was a fairly innocuous health issue therefore I wanted to keep those people updated on developments from the outset. More challenging was sharing my news with the people who I knew less well and with friends who I was in infrequent contact with. It never felt like a good time to break the news, with the ever tempting option to wait until after the next appointment when I might know more. It felt wrong to ring out the blue and then reveal I’m phoning them to tell them I have cancer. In such instances I resorted to text messages, which didn’t feel entirely right but that way I could convey the diagnosis, my feelings and the next steps, prior to following up with a chat when they’ve had an opportunity to process the news. On a couple of occasions I mistakenly told people I’d been diagnosed with cervical cancer, as if my brain couldn’t properly compute as it processed the news.

Each time I relayed the diagnosis it helped me to get my head round it that bit more and made it real.  It was a relief to tell people, to have got over the apprehension of breaking the news and anticipating how they would react.  I still find it awkward when I encounter people who I know are aware of my illness through common connections but don’t want to broach the subject as they’re not sure they’re supposed to know about it.  As someone who doesn’t naturally relish being the centre of attention it felt strange to be the subject of most of the conversations I was having, whether with health professionals, family or friends.

Telling my parents and elderly relatives of my diagnosis was one of the hardest thing I’ve done. There’s an innate desire to protect them from the bad news, having children of my own I can imagine what it feels like learning your child (no matter how old) has a serious illness. Having delivered news of the initial diagnosis I tried wherever possible to package up the bad news with something positive.

On sharing news of my illness people commonly seemed to have a desire to relate it to an experience with which they have some familiarity, more often than not the experience of someone they know/knew who had cancer.  A couple of times people mentioned they knew of others who had had ovarian cancer. When prompted for the “and now what” the conversation was tactfully changed leading to me fearing the worse.  

At times I found the task of keeping people updated on my treatment and progress overwhelming, not because I didn’t want people to ask, but because I decided I wanted to personalise my updates rather than keeping people updated by social media or a blog. In hindsight I put more pressure on myself at a time I was over faced with everything going on, whilst attempting to maintain normality for the boys.

I know Rob has been fending off numerous enquiries about how I’m doing – part of me is intrigued to know how he perceives I’m doing.  Rob’s been an absolute rock for me throughout; I know it’ll have hit him hard having lost his mother to breast cancer aged 56, evoking memories of her declining health in her final few months and a more vivid appreciation of what his parents must have been going through during that time.  I’ve needed Rob to be strong for the sake of me and the boys, but equally I know he’ll have needed to deal with the frustration and rubbish-ness of the situation and I’ve no doubt he’ll have thought long and hard about the daunting prospect of possibly having to bring up the boys on his own.  I hugely appreciate those in his support network who have been helping him to process all of what we’re going through allowing him to be strong for me.  Yes, he’s had more than enough passes these last few months to satisfy his cycling obsession but I know it’s helped him to process his emotions and relieve some of the stress.

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