Telling people you had cancer was hard. Telling them your cancer is no longer curable might seem impossible. How do you start a conversation like that? And how do you cope with their reactions and your own feelings?
Understandably, most people don’t want to talk about this, but there are people who can help you before and after these conversations, including the Redkite support team.
It’s your decision who you decide to share this news with. You can also decide how much detail to share.
You will get different reactions and responses. Some people will simply not know what to say, some will be very upset, and some won’t handle it well. As always, people mean well, but death is a hard topic.
telling your parents
If you didn’t have your parents in the room for the discussion with your doctors, you’re probably now wondering how to tell them. You can ask the doctor or hospital social worker to have this discussion for you, or to be there with you.
Even if your parents have been given the news, there is a possibility they have refused to accept it. This is a normal response and quite common. Some parents continue to try to find ways to fight the disease, scared of what they see as "giving up". This can be really hard if you don’t agree. See our section on support for loved ones for some ideas on how to help, and remember the Redkite support team is here for you as well as your parents and other family members.
telling your brothers and sisters
Your siblings might have been quite involved in your cancer experience, or they might have been sheltered from some things, especially if they’re younger. If they are younger, it’s a good idea to discuss with your parents how you want them to be told.
There’s a good chance their reactions will be as varied as yours. There are ways you can involve them now that may help both of you, and there are also support groups they can join. Again, the Redkite support team is here for you both.
telling your friends
Most young people have little experience with death, so it’s understandable if you’re worried about their reactions. Again, you don’t have to be the person to tell them if you’re not comfortable with that. You can ask your parents, or get one person to share the news with the group on your behalf.
It may be a good idea to talk to them about how you want them to be around you. Let them know if you still want them to visit, tell you stupid stories or groan at your jokes. They’ll probably need some help and guidance from you on how to act and behave, at least to start with.
telling your school or workplace
It’s up to you what you choose to share with your school, but if you intend to keep going then it might be helpful to keep them informed so they can help support you and your classmates. Many young people do continue to study, so the palliative care team will be able to help you with any practical issues.
Similarly, it's up to you how much you share with your workplace. You may need special assistance to continue working, and having key people who understand your circumstances can be really helpful.
Last updated September 2015.