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How to tell people you have testicular cancer

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Table of contents
Key points & intro
The right way to tell people
Decide who you want to tell
Decide how you want to tell people
Decide how much you want to share
Know your triggers
Don’t hide how you feel.
Don’t turn down offers of help
Set ground rules for future conversations
  • If you’ve been diagnosed with testicular cancer, who you tell and what you choose to share is up to you.

  • You might share more with your closest family and friends. To manage your emotional reserves, consider telling others in a group text or email, by using a treatment website, or having a trusted family member or friend share information on your behalf.

  • It’s OK to set boundaries around what you want to discuss and how much (or little) you talk about your testicular cancer diagnosis.

If you were just diagnosed with testicular cancer and you’re dreading telling others, you’re not alone. Far from it.

Coming to terms with cancer is difficult enough without the prospect of having to manage other people’s reactions. It might be an uncle with unsolicited medical advice. Or a parent who leans on you for emotional support instead of the other way around.

There is no one “right” way to let people know. But there are some things to consider as you decide who to tell and what to share.

The right way to tell people you have cancer is the way that’s right for you.

While it’s usually a good idea to tell those closest to you, you get to decide who and how much you share. You don’t have to tell anyone about your testicular cancer diagnosis if you don’t want to. And you don’t have to share any details you don’t wish to share.

You also get to decide how you tell people. You might choose to tell several people at once or to talk to people one-on-one. Or tell some of your loved ones in person and the rest by email or text.

You might share more detail with some and less with others. There may be people you choose not to tell.

Bottom line: it’s your journey. Who you share it with is up to you.

With that in mind, here are seven steps to take when deciding what to share and with whom.

1. Decide who you want to tell about your cancer diagnosis.

Make a list of the people in your life, starting with those closest to you or those who will be the most supportive. They’re your inner circle and may include:

  • A spouse or partner

  • Children, if you have any

  • Close family and friends

Now let’s look at the next ring of people in your life. You don’t have to tell every casual acquaintance, co-worker or classmate. And you don’t have to tell them one-by-one, either.

You should, however, inform your boss or HR department — or teachers, professors, course coordinators and advisors if you’re a student. They should be able to help you plan for medical leave or access any accommodations you might need during treatment, such as extensions or alternate assessments. They have an obligation to keep the information you share confidential. Be clear how much (or little) you want co-workers or classmates to know about your diagnosis.

2. Decide how you want to tell people

While you may want to tell your closest loved ones in person, think about how many times you want to deliver essentially the same news. It can be emotionally draining to have to keep sharing your diagnosis over and over. Again, your well-being comes first.

Here are some ways to reduce the burden:

  • Gather your closest friends and loved ones and tell them all at once. A little group support may be the lift you need.

  • Send a group text or email to extended family, friends or co-workers.

  • Ask people you trust to share the news with others, so you don’t have to tell everyone yourself.

  • Choose someone from your inner circle to share regular updates with your extended support network, or use treatment websites like CaringBridge or PostHope to share updates virtually.

To tweet or not to tweet? Using social media to share your cancer story

Some guys use social media to keep friends updated on their cancer diagnosis and treatment. There are pros and cons to doing so, but a lot comes down to personal preference:

  • How much “public” sharing are you comfortable with? For some, the experience can be draining. For others, it gets easier the more they share. Every person is different.

  • How much comment moderation are you up for? You may get a needed boost from the encouragement people share. But there may be some unwanted suggestions or armchair medical advice that isn’t relevant or helpful for your well-being.

Keep in mind there are ways to limit who you share with. On Facebook, you can control who can see or comment on individual posts, allowing you to share updates with family and close friends only. Or if you have that one distant cousin who thinks cannabis is a cancer cure (for the record: it’s not), you can choose to share updates with everyone but him.

Instagram and Twitter don’t offer as much control over who sees your individual posts, sadly. But you can set your accounts to private for a time, if you prefer.

3. Decide how much you want to share

Generally, those closest to you will want to know:

  • Your diagnosis: that is, what kind of cancer you have

  • Your prognosis: what your doctor expects in terms of recovery

  • Your treatment plan: what kind of medical care you’ll get and when (if you know already)

Feel free to adapt what you share depending on your audience. Close family and friends may want to know more — and there’s a good chance you’ll want to share more, since they’ll likely be your main support network.

Sharing your diagnosis with a partner

If you have a spouse or intimate partner, there are certain things you may want to discuss with them, like whether or not to get a testicular prosthesis. Most men do choose not to get one (though some do). Either way, it’s worth getting information about the option and having a conversation with your partner.

Sharing your diagnosis with kids

If you have kids, share the news with them in an age-appropriate way. Kids can tell when something is wrong, and they’ll be more anxious if you don’t say anything.

Younger kids may not understand what cancer is, so stick to the basics, including how it will be treated. Try to be as confident and reassuring as you can. Don’t worry about getting the message absolutely perfect. It’s more important for you to be open and create an environment where your kids can ask questions. Some kids will do so right away; others will need more time to process. They may come back and ask questions later if they want to know more.

If you don’t have all the details yet, consider waiting until you know more, so you can give your kids a complete picture.

Know your triggers — that is, things you don’t want to talk about.

Some people would rather not get into the nitty gritty about their cancer treatment or prognosis. Others don’t want people bringing religion into the conversation — telling them to “just have faith,” for example.

Whatever your no-go areas of conversation are, stick to them. If you get questions you’re not comfortable answering, it’s OK to say, “I’d rather not talk about that right now.”

If someone veers towards a topic that’s off-limits for you, there are a couple ways you can politely redirect the conversation:

  • Change the subject to something you are comfortable talking about.

  • Ask if you can talk about something besides cancer. (You’re more than your diagnosis, after all.)

If neither of those work, you may need to firmly shut down the conversation. Remember: your emotional well-being is worth protecting.

Don’t hide how you feel.

You don’t have to put on a “brave face” for anyone. It’s OK to be scared, frustrated, angry — and it’s OK to express these feelings to others.

No one has the right to police your emotions. There is no one ‘right’ way to feel when you’ve been diagnosed with testicular cancer.

At the same time, not everyone deserves a backstage pass to your emotional journey. You may feel more at ease sharing how you feel with certain people — which might be another reason to share the news and any updates with everyone else by email, text, social media, treatment website, or through a trusted family member or friend.

Don’t turn down offers of help

When someone offers practical, meaningful support, take them up on it. Whether it’s meal prep, running errands, keeping up with stuff around the house, or helping you get to and from medical appointments — chances are you’ll be glad for the help when the time comes.

Don’t hesitate to tell people specifically what you need. If you’re not sure yet, say so — but agree to tell them when something does come up. Sometimes it can be hard to think about what you need right on the spot, so consider making a list and then directing people to it when they ask what they can do.

Accepting offers of help can be difficult. Maybe it conflicts with your sense of independence. Or maybe you know the disappointment of someone offering help and never following through. Give your friends and loved ones — the people you trust most — a chance to provide the support every guy needs (and deserves) during testicular cancer.

Set ground rules for future conversations about testicular cancer.

Expect people to want updates on your progress. There may also be some people who don’t know when to stop talking about your cancer diagnosis.

It’s OK to set limits on how much you want to talk about testicular cancer. In fact, one of the best times to establish some ground rules for how and when others should follow up is when you tell them the news.

  • You could suggest they ask before bringing it up.

  • You can direct people to your social media accounts, treatment website or a key member of your support network who will take on the role of updating others, so you don’t have to keep each loved one personally up to speed.

Whoever you decide to tell and whatever you choose to share, this is your journey. Don’t shut people out — especially those you can count on to help. But set boundaries that are right for you. Also know that you can change your mind over time about who you want to share with and how much. You don’t need to stick to the decisions you make in this moment, while you’re still adjusting to your diagnosis.

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