A cancer journey is a difficult journey. It is covered with decisions that you have to make, often with little time to think it through, and some decisions that get made for you.
One decision, which can be a huge one, is who you share the news with. I have one friend who admitted her church was really the only place she shared the news. They kept up with the details, supported and encouraged her, and celebrated her remission with her. Friends and most family outside that group never knew.
I heard from another friend who never told anyone but a very few close friends. He kept it very tight, since I had never had any idea of his cancer struggle.
The first friend told me about her decision very early in my journey and it prompted me to start thinking about what I would or would not share. We did start a CaringBridge entry to help friends at church keep up. Since I’m a regular attender and sing in the choir, etc, it was very evident I was not at church so there was no keeping it a secret from them. I also told my mom, sister, and one aunt and 2 high school friends. I hadn’t decided what to do yet about work. I had 2 friends there who did a fantastic job of protecting my privacy while I was thinking it through. I had to let women in the denomination know because I had duties there that I could no longer perform.
The key here seems to be that the more things you are actively involved in, the harder it is to keep this a secret. After 6 months of short term disability and then approval for long term disability, people at work needed a fuller picture of why I was not coming back (although a few still see to be holding out hope that I’ll return).
I had sort of decided I didn’t mind going fully public, it would really be the best way to let people know that I had a terminal cancer that wasn’t going to go away quietly, when a friend posted a photo of me where it was very obvious I had lost tons of weight and I looked very sick! That sort of let the cat out of the bag and I received several messages from people seeking details. CaringBridge came in very handy at that point. I just started pointing people that way and then let them come back to me after they got caught up.
It was at this point that the second friend above contacted me to let me know he could relate to the cancer journey and had not told anyone. By that point I was getting at least one card a day from someone, plus phone calls, text messages, and comments on social media and CaringBridge that brought me so much encouragement and love. I couldn’t imagine wanting to keep this private and miss out on the warmth that so many wanted to share.
That doesn’t mean I think everyone has to share all, or anything at all. It is still a personal choice dictated by the person and the circumstances. And I am still uncomfortable some days with the level of detail I should share, how long people will still be interested, and what purpose my sharing has. Every post on CaringBridge, and certainly every post on this blog must have a purpose, an intention. Sometimes on CB it’s as simple as updating on the result of a surgery or procedure people knew was coming up. Sometimes I’m down and need to remind myself of the many blessings I receive every single day, and writing a CB entry is a sure way to feel better. Usually on this blog I have something a bit deeper and not specifically cancer related that I’m thinking through and writing helps me think. Or, like this post, it’s just to share one thing others may want to be prepared to think about when life goes sideways for them in the future.
Blessings and Merry Christmas!