I'd say reassuring them of your emotional state is a huge thing. That and having all the information you can get for them ready will help the best.
Tips for telling your parents you have cancer?
Asked by KarenG_WN on Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Tips for telling your parents you have cancer?
We've talked about telling your kids you have cancer - but what about telling your parents? Any tips based on your experience that could help someone trying to figure out the best way to tell Mom and/or Dad?
11 Answers from the Community
Dont do like I did and just blurt out, "Well Mom, I have Cancer"! I was 28 and it wasn't that big a deal to me at the time because I didn't think it was that serious. I was later told by my sister that it just about killed mom when I told her. So, I would say think it out, and let them know its going to be OK, and not worry too much. No matter what the eventual outcome, having your parents worry themselves into the grave isn't going to help anyone.
I'm with Drummerboy, don't blurt it out...and don't go over to their house just to tell them you have cancer. Go over just like you do for a normal visit and casually work it in to a conversation. Tell them how you found out, what the Dr had said and give them what info you can and not to worry. Keep them on top of things. Of course they are going to worry, they are your parents...but if you don't tell them and they see you getting sick they are going to worry too. Me and my family are a close knit family so we are like that I understand some families aren't so close. For those families, you still need to let your parents know that you have cancer, don't keep it from them.
Telling my parents I had cancer was one of the hardest things I have had to do. I think it was harder than telling them that I left my husband (5 years earlier). Plus, my parents are divorced so I had to do it twice. I didn't tell my parents until I was sure I had cancer. I waited until after I had the rectal tumor removed and they found the cancer to tell them anything was going on.
I had to call both on the phone as I live about 6 hours away from each of them. I just started to tell them my story of how my stomach was bothering me and then I had the colonoscopy, they didn't think it was cancer, I had the tumor removed and it was. I think they were upset that I didn't let them know something was going on sooner but I don't have a really close relationship that I would share something like that with them unless it was really serious.
My dad apparently cried for days and my mom wanted to come out and see my immediately. I went through the first round of chemo and radiation without them but they both decided to come out for my surgery (hence the Surgifesto!). I tend to call or e-mail or Skype my parents more often than I used to. Fortunately I am doing really well so there isn't too much to talk about.
I think the best advice I have is to plan the conversation, stick to the facts, let them ask questions and go slowly. I had as much information prepared as I could so they felt like everything was in order and I had a plan in place. My parents had raised me to be fiercely independent so I think they trusted me and my decisions for my treatment.
One of the most difficult things I've had to do was tell my mother I had prostate cancer, especially since my father had died from it. I agree that the best thing you can do is break the news as gently as possible, in person if at all possible, and provide as much information as you know and as the parents are able to take in. This may require several conversations as they will also need to overcome the same initial shock as you are doing. Keep them up-to-date on what is happening, the treatments you are planning or having, and your prognosis. Encourage them to talk to someone who can support them, e.g., their minister. My mother was fortunate enough to have a wonderful relationship with the assistant director of her assisted living facility and also with her minister. Both were able to provide support to her.
I also kept her informed of my treatment and that I was working with my medical team to treat as aggressively as possible. Mom seemed able to accept this and not worry excessively, though I know it was never far from her thoughts.
I just blurted it out to both of my parents over the phone, straight and to the point, which is me. By the time I saw my mother 15 minutes later, she had already called and texted 5 or 6 people. The most difficult was telling my grandmother, I am the only grand daughter and cancer in our family does not have a good turn out. I am careful with what information I share at this point, because I know how overwhelming it is.
Yes, one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life! My only sibling died 15 years ago, so I'm it. When I was diagnosed, I kept crying, "My parents don't deserve this." Not woe is me, but all I thought about was my parents.
Other than a few of my very, very closest friends, who I needed for support until we had the full diagnosis, my husband and I didn't tell anyone, not even our kids. Why worry anyone before we knew all the facts (needed blood work, CT-scan to determine if it had spread). Once we knew everything, my husband and I laid out a timeline of who needed to tell and in what order. Then we practiced what we were going to say over and over again.
After we told our kids, we went out to have brunch with my parents. It was my birthday. I was hoping to make it all the way through the meal, but I couldn't handle it and broke the news while we were eating dessert.
Now my parents have been through a lot. My brother was handicapped from a life-long illness. My parents nursed him for 35 years with almost daily trips to the hospital throughout his childhood. I wasn't kidding, they didn't deserve this!
My parents, however, are not the type of people I want around me when I'm sick. They are truly amazing, beautiful people, but they would drive me nuts! And I was truly concerned about that. Fortunately, they knew that I needed my own space to handle cancer my way. I am amazed at the way they handled everything.
They were with us during the surgery, hospital stay and for a few days later, but sensed when they needed to leave. We talked daily. Once I began chemo, I didn't feel that they should watch considering all that they had been through with my brother. I also explained to them that I would never know if I'd actually get the treatment because of the bloodwork. I'd hate for them to drive an hour just to have to turn around and go home. I always texted them once the chemo was a go, when I finished my treatment and once I was disconnected a few days later.
Our overall relationship, communication and appreciation for each other is now at the best it has ever been.
My mom was 87 when I was diagnosed and had lost my dad and her second husband by that time. So I knew she had had quite enough of bad news and dealing with chronic disease (My dad had ALS; my stepdad had a series of strokes.) I was in Montana, mom was in California. I made sure that my sisters were with her when I made the phone call to her. We had a long talk among the four of us, over speaker phone, and mom held up pretty well. My sisters stayed with her and told me later that she really seemed ok with it all.
I just recently had to do this, and it isn't easy. I actually had to take a few days to process the diagnosis myself before I could even think of telling anyone else.
I tried my best to give the story with a focus on less negative aspects (like "docs said a cure is possible," etc.). There is no best way to give this kind of news-- just be gentle. Do it over brunch :)
I felt so bad telling them, since my mom had stage IV lung cancer. During my treatments my mom alternated between being very sweet and concerned, and being angry at me- "You just have to have treatment for 9 months, I'll be doing this for the rest of my life!". So I stopped mentioning any problems I had during treatment and always told my mom that I was fine, just tired.
It was hard not having my mom's shoulder to cry on, but I guess that's part of growing up. She went downhill towards the end of my chemo treatments, and died after I finished radiation. Overall, although she was cranky about her whole situation, she was still brave, never cried. I look to her strength for inspiration.