Expect Pull-Back Along with the Embrace - Part 1
Last updated: October 2022
We are extremely saddened to say that on October 21, 2018, Jeffrey Poehlmann passed away. Jeffrey’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. He will be deeply missed.
Revealing a cancer diagnosis will bring out surprising reactions from people, including your family and friends, and those whom you thought were your friends. It also may, surprisingly, open the doorway to new relationships you were not expecting.
A Reveal Met with a Variety of Emotions
As a stage 4 patient with a great head of hair and a generally good tolerance of my chemotherapy, I've become used to (and sensitive to) surprising people when I tell them about my condition for the first time. I have been met with disbelief, anxiety, fear, trepidation, anger, resentment, sadness, indifference, shock, and unfettered love. To suggest that announcing my cancer has brought out a range of emotional responses is to drastically underplay the variety and magnitude of reactions. I am sure that this has been enhanced by my appearance of health and relative youth.
Almost three years in from my initial diagnosis, I still vividly recall the early instances where I revealed that I had advanced, metastatic lung cancer. It was not the sort of thing that I was going to randomly start dropping into conversation or broadcasting to a wide audience. I began by telling my family, carefully, once I had all the information I could gather. Then I told a few of my closest or oldest friends and the key people I worked with who would need to know. It would be difficult to keep people in the loop, so I had to set up a means of communication for that core group. My blog, JustBadForYou, had only been used for some test posts and had no actual readership, so I began publishing updates to share my message with family and friends -- but realized very quickly that it would have broader appeal and usefulness down the line, so I determined that I would need to go public with my cancer story before people I knew started discovering it by accident.
Loyal Friends Stick By Your Side
Of course, the select group of people I initially told about my diagnosis, before I even had any idea of what the treatment would be, took in the news with compassion. I could tell it was hard for all of them to hear, though I could not see any faces since these interactions all took place over the phone. Most immediately offered help, whether it was doing research or sending me something lovely or simply being willing to "be there" for me as needed. I was lucky in that way since I have heard that even the closest of relationships sometimes run away or vanish. But I did notice that a couple of people were ready to write me off as dead pretty quickly, perhaps with the best intentions in terms of trying to prepare themselves and by extension, my wife and child. It took a bit of work to get those people to look past the dire statistics and woeful prognosis from Dr. Google and friends, but again, I was lucky, and they, too, did not disappear.
As I broadened my reach, I realized that I had to tell people in all aspects of my social circle what was going on in my life, if only by way of explanation for my availability or to prepare them for why I might suddenly look different or behave differently. This was when the true range of reactions was revealed to me, sometimes surprisingly so.
Check out Part 2 of Expect Pull-Back Along With the Embrace
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