Wife okay to talk about diagnosis at family event?

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Question from Geoff J.: My wife and I are scheduled to go to a big family event in November, and she's just been diagnosed. I want her to go, but I don't want her talking about it there. I don't think it's the place for that. But how can she just go and act social? How should we handle it?
Answers - Rosalind Kleban, L.C.S.W. The decision about whether to talk about it or not is truly up to the patient. If your wife wants to be quiet about this and that's her decision, that's fine. If it's comforting for her to speak to others and get their support, she needs to have your support in doing that. On the other hand, encouraging her to be secretive about the diagnosis could possibly create feelings of shame and/or guilt.
Marc Silver In my book, I describe what I've concluded as the breast cancer husband's motto which is, "Shut up and listen to your wife." My wife is a teacher, and she wasn't sure if she wanted to tell her students about her breast cancer, and she made a decision that she needed to tell them as she went through treatment. That was her decision to make, and I supported her 100 percent.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. It is true that it's up to the woman to decide what kind of information she wants to reveal about herself in her situation. But what might be causing you some concern is that she cannot control people's reaction to the information that she has revealed. People will be talking about your situation, and that can be uncomfortable. Of course, the way you present the information can have a significant impact on how people will receive the information. They will take the cue from you. If your wife is sharing her thoughts and concerns with others and you are standing by her in support, then that most likely deliver a strong, positive message. It's important for her to be who she is, and you can find a way to give her the space to let that happen. Controlling how other people take and use this information is much, much less important.
Marc Silver It's very hard in those first weeks after diagnosis to face that your life will be very different for the next year. That's the reality of breast cancer. For that period of time, it will run your life, and it won't be the same year you would have had. You can't deny it, but you have to let it out and let people react and move on.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Family and Loved Ones featured Rosalind Kleban, L.C.S.W., author Marc Silver, and moderator Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about the issues surrounding family members and caregivers living with and caring for women affected by breast cancer.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in September 2004.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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