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How do you tell friends and colleagues you have cancer?

Posts: 13
Joined: Apr 2012

I was recently diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer, adenocarcinoma to be specific. I am 55 and a non-smoker, previously in good health, so this has naturally been quite a shock to me.

There is a nodule in the left lung, about 2.5cm, confirmed by CT and PT scans. I also had fluid drained from the pleura and malignancy was found there as well, which is why I have the Stage IV classification.

I tested negative for the EGFR mutation which means I'll be going on chemo soon, we are just waiting for the results of the biopsy.

I have said nothing to friends and colleagues yet, but knowing the side effects of chemo, it will likely be impossible to hide this. What is the best way to communicate my situation? I work for a very large corporation, in a dept. of 20 people, and supervise 5 of them. I've told my boss that I simply have been diagnosed with an illness and will require some time here and there for treatment and he was very supportive.

The only people who truly know my situation are my wife, son, sisters, a couple of cousins who work in the medical field, and a few very close friends.

I feel I need to begin communicating my situation to other friends, relatives, and colleagues so they don't get blindsided by seeing me with hair loss, etc. It also feels like it should come from me and not from others whispering about me.

Email and Facebook have been suggested and I guess they're possibilities but they do seem a bit impersonal. Still, calling up 20 people and telling them the same thing seems a little more than I can bear doing right now.

Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated and welcomed. Would like to know how others have handled this, what their experience has been, and (especially) things to avoid doing.

Thanks for your help.


Dapsterd's picture
Posts: 291
Joined: Jun 2010

Hello Booster,

I would simply tell a few friends and colleagues the truth and they will spread the word as necessary. Have your wife call the relatives as necessary as well. You should talk to your immediate siblings, etc. directly.

Simple as that. I would leave email and facebook for updates on subsequent treatments only, not initially.

At this time the concern is you and your direct family, but mainly only you....I worked for the Big 3 and supervised about 40 people, I let a few key people know and a couple days later I never came back to work again. I took the FMLA leave and then continued time off to present !! Note, I do not have any income coming in other than small SSD, but it is all worth it to me now, my stress is reduced from way way too much, to about nothing!

I might have mets to the bones/spine now, MRI Tuesday to confirm.

Truly, Best wishes...

2 yrs since dx, 48 yr old, Aden-Car, with mets to lymphs, brain

Ex_Rock_n_Roller's picture
Posts: 281
Joined: Mar 2011

I'm also 2 years since DX at age 59 with Stage 3B NSCLC adenocarcinoma, never-smoker, and fitness nut, so I know how you feel.

I told my boss first and HR second, and pretty much just laid it out. Word traveled from there (I explicitly didn't swear anybody to secrecy), and response from all my co-workers, each in his own way, was supportive and constructive.

I worked for a small business unit of a Fortune 500 supplier to the Big 3 and virtually every other major corporation, and supervised eight people. I kept working through chemo and radio, some of it from home via computer, and actually kept working for almost another year and a half, after which I decided that actually betting on my good results to date wasn't a great idea, so I retired last September. Like Dave, I really don't have much of anything coming in, but could afford it by virtue of having been a skinflint for decades(and having a wife with decent educational-system health bennies; she was also able to retire early). Haven't regretted it for a second since.

Bottom line: I'd recommend just coming out with it to a few select colleagues, and letting them know they aren't required to keep the info close to the vest. You've got enough on your mind; let your network handle the leg work. That's what they're there for, in my opinion.

soccerfreaks's picture
Posts: 2800
Joined: Sep 2006

I agree with the other two guys. The worst thing you could do, I think, is to rely on the impersonal connections of the internet.

There is truly nothing stigmatic about cancer. Anyone who finds it so is probably not worth much more of your time anyway. When you see a friend, co-worker, associate, you simply say, "Hey, I've received some potentially bad news: I have cancer." Explain, if asked, or if you feel compelled, that you are exploring all options, investigating all information, and intending to fight it while also continuing to enjoy your life. All that you ask of them is to continue to expect the same from you as you continue to expect the same from them, and you will let them know, if they are interested, if and as your status changes.

Honesty is always the best policy, especially with regard to something like this, and hiding it from others does everyone with cancer a disservice, frankly, something you will understand eventually if you do not already do so.

Take care,


Posts: 13
Joined: Apr 2012

Appreciate your perspective guys, you have given me some things to consider. Thank you very much and good luck to all of you.

mamacita5's picture
Posts: 254
Joined: May 2010

I told all of my immediate co-workers right away and because I was scheduled for immediate surgery I asked them to spread the word to others in the school district while I was out. Word got out VERY quickly and very soon I was the recipient of dozens of well wishes, words of encouragement, meals, and support. My co-workers surprised me with the funds to purchase two beautiful wigs too! Although I never lost my hair with my initial chemo I have had to use them due to thinning hair with Tarceva. PS I have been able to educate many of my friends and associates about lung cancer not being a disease only smokers get! I have never smoked.

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