Breaking Bad News

Bloggers for MovemberFinally, some time alone. I had been craving this respite ever since I had heard the news. Normally I enjoyed the camaraderie of my neighbours, the enthusiasm of my children, the incessant chit-chat of my wife. But today I wished for peace, for the silence of my den, so that I could think things through; so that I could acknowledge and accept the news that I had heard today.

My head in my hands, I remembered the words of my doctor; the words I had never believed I would hear. “The tests are positive for prostate cancer.” I know he continued with other words; but those are the only ones I recall. “I have cancer. I can die.” These thoughts whirled in my head as I sat mute in the doctor’s rooms. He got up and I followed, without thought, to the receptionist’s desk. I walked out the offices with an appointment card in my hand.

How to tell my wife? My wife who had continuously reminded me to go for the yearly check-up: a check-up I had avoided for years. My wife who berated me for not eating the vegetables she had prepared. My wife who constantly exhorted me to take up some form of exercise. And my children? My son, who was adopting the lifestyle I had perfected. My daughter, who seemed so distant from me since she had begun high school. This was news I dreaded telling. But tell it I must.

The door opens gently and the slice of light shines on my face. “Are you alight honey?” I shake my head gently. There is no better time than now. “Tracey, come sit down with me. There is something I need to tell you.”

How would you break the news of cancer to your loved ones?

(This post was written to help raise awareness of prostrate cancer and men’s health. The Bloggers for Mowember movement was initiated by A Clown on Fire. Join the movement by writing a post to highlight this important topic.) 

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

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11 thoughts on “Breaking Bad News

  1. We got this diagnosis for Anthony years ago and were devastated but we dealt with it together. Then the PD took over so he has two major terminal illnesses. I do think it’s best to be open with each other – straight to the point. Wonderful post Colline.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your experience with us Julie. As with any other bad news regarding illness, it is always best to know everything, isn’t it, so that we can move forward.

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    1. A great compliment from you Le Clown 🙂
      It is an important message we are sharing this month; and I am only to happy to do my part. My hope is that a man reads this, and picks up the phone to make an appointment with his doctor.

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  2. Strong message. As for answering your question, there is no one way, no the way … only a multitude of a way …. thus whatever is the way is for the individuals involved … well, as long as it is told.

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  3. This is not something that can be hidden from family. With the multitude of appointments and the support that is necessary. Perhaps the best time to tell is after careful consideration of what one wishes to do next, them informing one family member first – the one closest who will likely be of support. Although we may believe that all family is there to support us, some families or some family members may have mixed emotions about the diagnosis and are unable to be supportive. Sometimes family members can be the ones a cancer patient needs to support. And, this is not the time for supporting others.

    While waiting for a biopsy to be diagnosed, I shared my news with many others for support. Strangely, I found the least support among those I thought would be the most supportive. Many people distanced themselves from the news or told me horrific stories about others with cancer. One asked me my symptoms and without being medical personnel, told me for certain I had cancer. This was not comforting at all. One of my children was less than 1 year old at the time, and it was my concern for my family that outweighed any fear I had about cancer or even dying.

    At the cancer clinic, one woman with a gleam in her eye, filled me with doubt and fear as she also told me that I probably had cancer because that is why I had this appointment. I noticed that the other women, kept to themselves, the room’s silence almost deafening, while their faces held a mixture of fear, consternation, anger and grief. They scoffed and shook their heads at the words of the woman speaking unkindly to me. In that moment, I realized that perhaps I was not the only one who walked this path unsupported.

    If family and friends and even other cancer patients find it difficult to be kind or supportive, there are groups for those experiencing cancer that may be more supportive. It may be comforting for any man reading this blog post, that prostate cancer is quite common as men grow older and that it is very slow growing. Some are left untreated because they grow so slowly if a man is older. There are also some less invasive techniques to remove prostate cancer, leaving a man more whole and better able to enjoy the pleasures he may have been told could be compromised with surgery.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your experience with us Darlene. It is saddening to realise that the support we need at a difficult time like this may not be forthcoming.
      Interesting to learn that prostate cancer is slow growing – which certainly gives it more time in which to be treated.

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