A woman looks to her friends and family who look at her supportively

Community Shares: The First Person You Told about Your Diagnosis

For most people, learning of a cancer diagnosis is not something that can be processed alone, nor should it be. Humans are social animals, and we feel this most deeply when we face something truly challenging.

Opening up about cancer, in particular, can be tricky. We want to tell someone who will be able to be with us in what we are experiencing. They may not know exactly what it means to have cancer, but they see and understand our fear and pain. They feel it, too, to some degree, and allow us to process the news however we need to.

Sharing your diagnosis

Sometimes the person we tell first is the person who we know will offer us the support we need, and other times, we tell someone because they happen to be there. Either way works to provide relief and connection.

To hear more about who you shared with, we reached out on the AdvancedBreastCancer.net Facebook page, asking: “Who was the first person you told after you found out about your diagnosis?”

More than 75 of you commented, and here’s what you had to say.

Sharing your diagnosis with your partner

For many of you, your life partner was the first person you told. True partnership means someone who is with us in the good and the bad, able to be with us in the pain. Our pain is their pain. Certainly nobody wants to be in this situation, but to have a loving partner with you through every step of this physical and emotional journey is a gift. Through the love and support of others, we find the strength to keep going.

“My husband, and it broke his heart.”

“My husband. We journeyed through my original breast cancer 16 years ago, and now it has reared its ugly head as stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, with mets to ALL bones.”

“My husband. He was getting chemotherapy and I was getting radiation.”

“My wife was with me when we got the bad news (we’re a same-sex couple).”

Share a metastatic diagnosis with a newer relationship

Others of you shared that you were able to open up about your cancer to people who may or may not have taken the news well. We were truly inspired by one woman’s story. She shared her diagnosis with someone she was in a new relationship with. He turned out to be someone who could step up and be the person she needed him to be. Which only goes to show that we never know who will support us along the journey. We shouldn’t rule out telling someone, because that person may surprise us and end up being our rock—maybe even for the rest of our lives.

“My boyfriend of 2 weeks. He didn’t walk away. We were engaged 6 months later and have been married for 2.5 years now.”

Sharing a stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis with your mother

There’s an undeniable comfort to having our mothers show up for us. You are never too old for your mother’s love and support and those who have it are certainly fortunate. For many of you, your mothers are people who 100 percent understand and empathize because few people are as invested in your well-being as your mother is. Hopefully, those of you who have good relationships with your mother can receive the support, and let her know how you would like her to show up. As a reminder, it might help to suggest to a parent that he or she may need to be receiving support as well. Being someone’s support system can be rough, and it’s not as helpful when the person with cancer turns around and has to support her or his support system. Instead, perhaps your parent (or partner or friend) can reach out and ask for support from someone who isn’t you.

“Mom was with me.”

“My mother. I told her on the phone long distance. I will never forget the sound she made. It was like all the air had been knocked out of her and I heard it leave her body.”

Sharing a breast cancer diagnosis with your children

On the flip side, more than a few of you shared that it was your adult children who you told first. How wonderful to have such a strong connection with your children that you can open up and share the truth with them, and that they can hear it and stand up to support you. Sometimes parents think that they need to protect their children from hard news, but this may not be the case in your family. Many times, adult children want to be informed, and want the opportunity to give back to a parent who has given so much.

“My daughter. My hubby was away on another island and I didn’t have the heart to tell him yet.”

“My 2 sons, because they called first.”

Sharing your diagnosis with others

Support comes in many, many shapes and sizes. It might be easy to assume there is no support if you’re not married or if your family isn’t alive or doesn’t live close by. But that’s not true. We all deserve support. And being part of a community—any community—means that it’s OK to accept help when it is offered, regardless of who shows up to give us that support.

“My friend, Reggie. She had already had a tram flap. She helped me through. And, years later, Reggie is fine.”

“My pastor and his wife!”

Connecting through community

We want to say thank you to everyone who shared about this topic. Without you, there is no community. Thank you.

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