Time to Tell the Family
How do you tell your family that you have cancer, especially if you live hundreds of miles away? And when is the right time? I certainly didn’t want to worry anyone before the biopsy results, and we still didn’t have a lot of information, but the time to tell those closest to us had arrived.
I wanted to make sure I was composed before making my first call, which would be to my adult daughter. I sat at the kitchen table for several minutes, phone in hand, trying to gather my courage, when she called me. I echoed her happy hello, but she knows me all to well. “What’s wrong, Mom?”
I started to speak, but there was a catch in my throat. “Give me a moment.” I didn’t want to do this to her.
“I was just diagnosed with breast cancer.”
The brief guttural sound that came from her throat broke my heart. We both regained our composure and had a frank discussion. In her heartfelt and very analytical way, she worked through her questions and offered up her love and support. My two sons were equally loving and concerned. How I hated burdening them with this news!
How do you call your elderly mother — who lives alone — and tell her you have cancer? I couldn’t. Instead, I placed another call to someone who could help. “I need my big brother,” were the first words out of my mouth. Explaining the diagnosis and my concerns about telling Mom by phone, my brother agreed to deliver the news to her in person. What an awful thing to have tell you mother, and what a loving thing to do so for your sister.
As evening rolled in we settled on the sofa to watch television. We thought about making popcorn, which is our cherished ritual. “I wish we had some ice cream,” I thought out loud. So after a few moment’s discussion about the wisdom of junk food at 9:00 p.m., we decided that if you can’t go out for ice cream on the day you learn you have cancer, when can you? Ice cream it was.
Author’s Note: This is article is part of a series chronicling my first-hand patient perspective of life with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. Without being overly self-indulgent, I hope to convey the raw emotion that comes with such a diagnosis… and the process of living with and beyond it. Entries will appear in Care2 Causes and in Care2 Healthy & Green Living. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo
Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Series
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