Thursday 25 June 2009
Upfront and open or silent and secret?
When we first heard that Steve had mesolthelioma, we had to make the first of many big decisions - whether to be upfront, open and tell people about it, or keep it a secret and stay silent. There is no right answer. It's down to the individual.
We knew that the diagnosis would have a radical impact on our lives and that sooner or later, people who knew us would work out that something was wrong. Steve decided to tell the family as soon as possible, preferably face-to-face, or if that was not possible, to break it to them by talking on the phone. I think I can honestly say that telling our nearest and dearest was one of the most difficult things we have ever had to do.
A few close friends also found out soon after simply because they happened to get in touch with us or visit by chance around the same time. Telling the news to these people was nearly as difficult as breaking it to the family. They were the ones who bore the brunt of our emotions, without first having had the opportunity to come to terms with the news themselves.
My work colleagues were the next to know - you can't just disappear for the best part of three months without an explanation. I choked trying to talk to people, but found it a little easier to put things in writing, which is when I started this blog.
Once we had some idea of what we were facing, Steve decided to spread the word to our other friends electronically, mixing the bad news with more positive things and letting people know about this blog so that they could find out more and keep up-to-date with news - or not - as they wished.
Today, we met several of those friends face-to-face for the first time since spreading the word more widely. Although they had been shocked by the e-mail, it had broken the ice. There were no embarrassing moments wondering how to reply to the question "how are you?" or how to respond to an unexpected answer. Just hugs and kisses, an arm round the shoulder or a firm handshake, depending on the individual, and a genuine warmth and concern about this cruel twist of fate, before moving on to/catching up with other news. Which is the way we wanted it. Thank you.
And thanks to Edith for inviting us to the retirement tea party and for the delicious cakes. Many happy returns for next week! It was lovely to see so many old and not-so-old friends, albeit for a short space of time. Here's to more such occasions!