Who to tell and when

So my husband told my kids the news. I unfortunately made the mistake of asking my daughter not to put it on facebook, etc. I should have been more specific as she took this to mean she could not tell her close friend/confident through a private message. It took a few days for me to realise that she was bottling up emotions when she should have been discussing them with her peers.

I phoned my mum. Quite a hard phone call but I knew I would be seeing her in a few weeks as she was due to come on holiday with us – we assumed at this stage that our holiday would still happen. We arranged for my brother-in-law to be with my mother-in-law when we told her – she was in her 90s. 

I was supposed to be “depping” for a band the day after the diagnosis. My husband managed to get someone to cover for me simply telling him that I was unavailable for “personal, non-trivial” reasons.  I think some of the band knew something was up though when at a gig 2 days later I was trying discreetly(!) to pick the brains of a nurse friend about MRIs. I was concerned as my ring finger was starting to swell and I couldn’t get my wedding ring off. Luckily a phone call to the MRI department confirmed that I could keep it on. With what happened next with my finger though I think we should have persevered and removed it then.

My husband told our conductor after our last rehearsal before our holiday. We were due to play in the national finals in Cheltenham in September and the likelihood was that if I had an operation on return from holiday I would not be playing.

I emailed my boss and arranged to meet her for coffee out of the office. It was school holidays so I was only due in the office 2 days a week but with what turned out to be 4 medical appointments that week I wasn’t going to make it in. I started writing handover notes for my colleagues.

So how do people react? You get those ” friends ” who don’t know what do say, so they ignore you. You get those that gaily inform you that cancer gets us all in the end and know loads of people who have not survived. You get some who repeatedly tell you that they will pray for you even when you ask them not to (to me this translated as “I am praying for you because I think you are going to die” – it did not bring comfort). Then you get the friends who supply you with tissues, let you cry on their shoulders, make you coffee and buy you cake.

I have some difficulty now when people ask me how I am. “Good thanks” doesn’t seem enough – they want details of my physical and mental wellbeing. Then the next time someone asks you reply “Good thanks, just a few side affects from the drugs but at least I now have hair” then you realise that you hadn’t actually spoken to this person for years or it was a work colleague who wasn’t around when I was in treatment and they didn’t know what you were talking about.

You have to be able to guess what people are asking and tell them what they want, after all who really wants to know our fears.

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