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Has anyone else experienced family members denying your cancer diagnosis?

PurpleWarrior390's picture
PurpleWarrior390
Posts: 1
Joined: Jul 2018

Hello everyone,

I am new to this online support community.

I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer stage 3 B in November of 2017 and have since been diagnosed with Graves' disease and hyperthyroidism. Aside from the personal issues I have encountered during my diagnosis, treatment, and recovery, I have been having an issue with my family members denying or avoiding my cancer diagnosis and any discussion about it. Multiple close family members, most notably my aunt and grandma, brush off any of my attempts to discuss this life changing health problem with them. Particularly, my grandmother, a three-time breast cancer survivor, and my aunt, a two-time breast cancer survivor, say things like "you are young, you will get over it" and "all you had to do was take a pill for it to go away, it's nothing." I feel very saddened by these comments and feel as though they have let me down during my time of need. They have been supportive of me for my entire life and this is unusual for them. I feel alone in this process. I wonder if they think that this cancer is "easy" compared to what they have endured. I try explaining to them that this is still cancer and that I'm having a difficult time coping with it nonetheless, but to no avail. Does anyone else have similar issue? Should I keep trying to talk about it with them or should I just let it go? 

Thanks for any input. 

Maymers
Posts: 2
Joined: Jul 2018

Hi there Purple,

I had a similar experience with my family, especially my dad, trying to explain to him that I had papillary thyroid cancer stage 2 and was going to have surgery (which I did 3 months ago). He would say things like, "a lot of people have thyroid conditions," and "I read that you need to drink warm water with lemon juice every morning"... *sigh* Thanks dad...  I feel SUPER listened to now that I have your lemon juice advice. LOL.

The thing is, people don't realize that they are being dismissive when they say "You're going to be fine". They think that is the support you are looking for.

I started seeing a therapist last year because I needed some tools to get through this, she helped me see that people use this as a coping mechanism, that they don't mean to be unsupportive, just that most don't know how to deal with this kind of bad news. 

The suggestion she gave me, was to sit them down and say, "Hey,  [I feel very saddened by these comments. I feel alone in this process.etc.] And what I need from you is XYZ (to just listen to how I feel and acknowledge this is what I'm feeling because I feel dismissed when you say, "You're going to be ok, it's just a pill"). She recommended sticking to how you feel as opposed to what they are doing or not doing to keep them from feeling defensive.

I'm with you on how many people think that thyroid cancer is "easy" and "the good cancer", you're right that it's still cancer. 

There's a lot to process with having cancer and it's important to have people around you be supportive, but don't beat yourself up if they're not ready to understand yet. Try again, and try with other people. The reason I went to a therapist was because they are trained to listen objectively. It was super useful for me!

Wishing you all the best with this journey!

annie4145
Posts: 89
Joined: Jul 2018

I have a different type of cancer (approximately 75% survival after 4 years...hard to get the exact numbers.)  What got me today is my mom and sister saying that I need to "think positively".  I know that they are trying to be supportive, but I feel I don't need a lecture on positive thinking.  It is easy for them to say, but it is a lot harder when you are dealing with it, and then my husband disagrees with my decision seeking another doctor at a different facility. But I know that they love me, but they just aren't giving me the support that I need right now.  I guess that some people try to be supportive, but just don't know how.   They might think that they are "cheering" you up, instead of validating your feelings. 

beat atc's picture
beat atc
Posts: 60
Joined: Mar 2013

have not been on the board long time, sorry !! Atc survivor 6 years had some great support here when I needed it the most! Terrible time for me given 3 maybe 6 months my family could not deal with it , got to get back humbled to be alive instead of getting hung up on life’s bs

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