Telling the Parents

Bob Riter is the retired Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appeared regularly in the Ithaca Journal and on OncoLink. He can be reached at bobriter@gmail.com.

A collection of Bob’s columns, When Your Life is Touched by Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care, is available in bookstores nationwide and through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. All royalties from the sale of the book come to the Cancer Resource Center.

I’ve seen many resources that provide advice on how to tell your children that you have cancer.  But what about the other generation – your parents?  Family relationships are sometimes complicated, so I don’t presume to know what’s best for you and your family, but some guidelines might be helpful.

In general, it’s a good idea to talk openly with your parents about your cancer. Keeping secrets consumes energy when you could better use that energy for your own healing. And, if you don’t tell your parents, someone else probably will.

But be prepared for your parents having a very emotional response to your cancer diagnosis, even if it’s a cancer that’s routinely curable.

They will hear the word “cancer” and immediately assume the worst. Losing a child is a parent’s worst fear.

Problems sometimes arise with parents because they just want to help. This is especially true if they try to influence treatment decisions or otherwise exert control. You may need to gently remind them that you’re the decision-maker on all matters relating to your illness.

This is one time in which it’s absolutely OK for you to focus on what’s best for you. If having your parents with you during cancer treatment is beneficial, then welcome them with open arms. If having them present is stressful, suggest other ways for them to contribute.

Tell them that they can always help by sending good thoughts and positive energy. But do try to keep them in the information loop. Everyone feels better when they’re included.

 


 

Excerpted with permission from When Your Life is Touched By Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care by Bob Riter, copyright (c) 2013, Hunter House Inc., Publishers.

By Bob Riter
From the Ithaca Journal, Feb. 7, 2014
Reprinted with permission

 

Click here to see all of Bob’s columns

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