How Do You Tell Others You Have a Terminal Lung Disease?
I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I have a good answer to this question, but I’ll share my journey delivering this message. My journey actually began by telling others I had breast cancer three-and-a-half years ago. Only 10 days elapsed between that awful phone call and my surgery. I first told my husband and we spent a few days processing it and figuring out details. I’m the kind of person who needs to sit with news like that before telling the world, so I waited a few days before I told other family members.
I wanted to tell our two adult children in person. One was nearby and one was in Texas.
A few days before the weekend of my surgery I called our son and said I’d like to visit him for a few days. He asked “What’s wrong?” I wanted to tell him in person, but I couldn’t lie and say there was nothing wrong. It was so painful to tell him I had breast cancer. I flew from California to Texas and spent four days with him, and it was a very sweet time. It helped both of us a lot.
Telling our daughter in person was just as bad. We cried and talked, and cried some more. Seeing their faces and facing their fear about losing their mom was crushing. I tried to reassure them that I had a pretty good prognosis because, even though the cancer was the most aggressive kind, it had not spread to my lymph nodes. We all clung to the hope that surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation would take care of it.
Then I began the phone calls telling my family and friends. I heard each one’s shock, denial and emotional pain. Over and over. I told my husband I could only tell four people a day; it was just too exhausting. I also had to tell my co-workers and the 30 clients in my counseling practice, because I would be missing work over the next eight months. It was so difficult. This all happened over a period of 10 days.
A year later I had to do it all again, except this time I had to deliver even worse news.
It was hard to find the words to explain that I developed a terminal illness because of the treatment for cancer that was meant to save my life. Having to tell so many people of my diagnosis forced me out of denial and bargaining stage really fast, and was a huge part of my grief process. Telling person after person who cared about me, depended on me, and were terrified they would lose me, was devastating, exhausting and sorrowful.
I didn’t do a good job at it. I never came up with the right words to say in the right way.
Sometimes I just blurted it out. Other times I led into the news in such a meandering way that the other person didn’t even know what I was saying. Then there were times I sugarcoated it, so that the person had no idea just how serious my news was. I don’t beat myself up about my poor delivery. I was in an impossible situation doing the best I could. The reality was that there is no easy way to share news like this. All I could do was the best I could. I’m sure you’ve done the best you could, too.
It is common to wonder the following thoughts when first thinking of telling others about your diagnosis:
- How do I tell my spouse? My children? My friends and coworkers?
- Who do I tell first?
- What do I say? How much do I say?
- Maybe I won’t tell anyone. I can’t do this.
- Do I tell people so they can pray for me?
- Do I share on Facebook? Keep it private?
- Do I tell people as I get worse?
- How do I deal with my own feelings without taking on their feelings?
You know how hard this is. How do you deliver the news that you are dying and nothing can be done? How do you handle their emotions, their feelings? How do you let them have their own feelings knowing you can’t make it all better? These are big questions and big concerns especially for our loved ones, who will be the most impacted. I really do understand. We can’t do this alone. We need God and support from others to get through each part of this process. I’m here as part of your support team.
Kind Words from Me to You …
I know the heartache you feel. I know how hard it is to tell someone you love such terrible news. I know how hard it is to update them as your condition worsens. Please be gentle with yourself as you share bad news or reflect on how you already shared it. You are in an impossible situation. No one does it well. You are doing the best you can. You are brave, even if you don’t feel brave. Reading this column may validate your feelings, but may also bring up pain. Take some time right now to comfort yourself, and get encouragement from God and others in ways that soothe you. You are precious and I’m so sorry we are going through this.
I encourage you to be kind to yourself as you either prepare to tell your loved ones, or as you remember what it was like when you did. I know that some in our lives won’t let themselves feel this reality yet. It takes time for all of us to face this unwanted news.
I hope it was helpful to hear my journey delivering this news. I’d love to hear from you about your journey.
Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.