My biggest worry once I was diagnosed and I had processed the information myself was how to tell people.
Apparently I didn’t do such a good job with my sister – I was diagnosed a couple days before her birthday and I am not very good at pretending things are hunky dory when they are not. And I couldn’t see myself doing that on the phone call to wish her a happy birthday. She got upset with the news – our mother passed from uterine cancer a few years ago and she was gone within 6 months of her diagnosis, so for my sister cancer means mostly that. It is not easy to try to concentrate on the positive whilst yourself you are trying to deal with the news and the feeling of betrayal (by your body) but I felt relieved after and telling my sister that I was in the best possible care and that the prognosis was actually the best it could be helped me process the facts quicker.
My biggest worry was about telling my grandparents. To help you understand why, it is important to know that my sister, Vanessa and I, were raised by our maternal grandparents from the moments we were toddlers because neither our parents were deemed suitable to do so by a judge after they got a divorce. Well my dad probably could have but was so not interested! Don’t feel sorry for us though, we had a very balanced and happy childhood. My nan is my hero for never questioning it was the right thing for them to do and for always, always being there for us…
This means that to me, my grandparents are like my parents and therefore telling those people who have seen you grow up that you have some serious health issue, when you have always been healthy and that your granddad is struggling to recover from a serious operation himself, is not easy.
After a conversation with my uncle, Dom and his wife Choupette (he is the brother I never had), we decided it was better for us to wait until Christmas when we would all be there to hold their hand to tell them.
I live in London, my uncle and his wife live in Parisian suburb and my grandparents live in Vendee, which is located south of Brittany, on the French Atlantic coast….a lot of travelling before we got there as I first went to my uncle’s via Eurostar and then we drove down to my childhood home together.
I waited a couple hours before I took my nan aside and sprung the news on her. I tried not to build up the stress and just said it matter of fact. She was shocked by the news of course but I think she coped well. I think it was good that she got to see me energetic and in good spirits before I told her, which was my aim. I gave her the choice of when and if she wanted to share the information with my granddad. He is the most fragile emotionally, even if he always try to appear as the strong one.
My nan was most upset with my sister and my aunt Choupette for having kept the news from her for those few weeks and I had to ask her to be generous with them as they were under my wishes.
I try to make light of it for their benefits…I mean, my prognosis is real good, I am young, relatively healthy and my cancer is small, localised and taken well early…one of the way I try to take the drama out is to use my illness as an excuse for everything…like “you can’t beat me at the boarders me because I am sick”, “you can say this to me, because I am sick”… Of course they know I don’t mean it and therefore, they stop worrying about it and seeing me only through it….it’s hard as within the first few days if my arrival, my hair started to fall and I asked my cousins to give me a buzz cut…I look ok actually and it makes it less dramatic that always coming with handful of hair every time I forget and pass my hand in my hair…
All in all, we are all coping with it well and after all the excitement of Xmas takes the centre stage…