Last week I wrote a post about death. I had learned that an old friend had a terminal disease. He was someone I very rarely see but he made it a point to tell me personally. I was stunned and speechless.
There was a lot of discussion both on and off-line.
Some people said they wouldn’t tell anyone but family if they had a terminal illness. I had several friends who died and afterward I found out that they had been struggling with the illness for six months to a year, knowing the eventual outcome. Yet they never said anything.
Some thought it was a necessary part of the journey for the friend. Closure of a sort.
Some thought it would have been better if he had not said anything.
As for me I was gob smacked.
I am private about my medical issues but I have learned in the last few years that sharing can help. I had some issues that weren’t helped by doctors but through talking to people, I got some suggestions that worked.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer many years ago, I did not tell anyone but close friends and immediate family. I didn’t even tell all the family. I didn’t want people to worry.
I was having enough trouble wrapping my head around it. I didn’t want to have to help others understand.
Sometimes I didn’t want to talk about it at all and other times I could not stop blabbering. I never knew which Kate would be present so it was easier to keep mum.
I didn’t want the “You’ll be just fine” comments which seemed to minimize it or listen to the stories of people who died. I didn’t know what I wanted most of time. Maybe just hugs.
I am an ostrich. I like to stick my head deep in the sand until the threat passes. It was hard for me to research my illness and harder yet to sleep after I did.
My stomach turned as I read about the various stages and possibilities. At that time, they didn’t have the techniques for accurate predictions that they do now. Some of the process was downright medieval. (Seriously putting a needle in the boob to mark the spot and then cover it with a Dixie cup? Can’t call that high tech.)
A lot of it was through doctor experience. Chemo was a frightening possibility. Really frightening.
But that was me. Others are more open. I worked with a women who told me nonchalantly that she had a non-operable brain tumor. It was stable so as long as it didn’t grow, she was fine. She had it for five years at that point which was more than ten years ago. She is still around.
You can learn things from people and get comfort and support.
Still…it’s an intense decision.
So…if you were diagnosed with a terminal illness, what would you do?
Would you tell? Or not?
Would you wait until the symptoms were obvious? Share early on? Or not at all?