Talking to Your Family and Spouse

It can be difficult to tell friends and family members that you have been diagnosed with breast cancer. For some women it is as hard as hearing the diagnosis for themselves, because you have to relive moment each time. You may have deep concerns about friends and family member’s reactions and how they will perceive you as you undergo treatment.

Talking with Your Spouse about Your Diagnosis

If you are married, your spouse will be the second most affected person by this breast cancer diagnosis. He or she will be scared – your health and your life are at stake and out of their control. They may be concerned about financial obligations, household duties, or taking on roles that they never did before.[1] If you are able to talk about them together, it will make the journey for both of you much easier. Here are some tips on how to do this:

  • Invite your spouse or partner to all doctors’ appointments or other meetings. Not only will you not have to repeat everything later, you have a second set of eyes and ears with you to help remember everything.
  • Be honest and open about your needs. This is not the time to be “tough”.
  • Let your partner communicate their needs.
  • Find time to be alone with your partner.
  • Changes will have to take place in the home. Work together to determine what this will look like.
  • Work on finances together.
  • Breast cancer can lead to physical changes in addition to emotional changes that will affect your intimacy with one another. Be open and honest with each other about these.

Talking to Relatives and Friends

When it comes to family, use the following tips as a guide:[2]

  • Make a list of who you want to tell. Make a short outline of what you want to say. This will allow you to stay focused despite their reactions to the news.
  • You are not just telling friends and family to pass on the news, you may need help from some of them. Choose people that you know will be there to help you through this difficult time.

Setting Limits

Do you like to be surrounded with people when you are facing a crisis? Or are you a person who needs only a few people by their side during hard times? Some people are willing do anything they can to help you, which is wonderful to a degree. It can become overwhelming, however, if you are bombarded all day long with phone calls, casseroles, and sympathy. It is okay to ask for some alone time.

Everyone responds to crisis situations in their own way. Some people may say or do the wrong things but this is not because they are trying to be mean, they just do not know how to respond. Do not take this personally, as hard as that may be. Just remember, you are in control of who you tell, not their reactions. The only actions you can control are your own.

1  Deborah A. Cohen, R. M. (2000). Just Get Me Through This The Practical Guide to Breast Cancer. New York City: Kensington Publishing Corporation.

2 Cohen, op. cit.

This article was originally published on July 27,2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/2/2015.