Telling your adult children about a metastatic breast cancer (MBC) diagnosis can be uncomfortable.
The first step is to decide when and how to tell them. Don’t feel like you have to rush. It may be better to already have an idea of what your treatment plan will be before you start telling family about your diagnosis.
Adult children will likely react very differently than young children. They may have many questions and desire more information from you. The seriousness of a metastatic diagnosis may be more clear to them. In addition, they may want to assume a caregiving role right away.
Here are some ways you can help your adult children deal with your diagnosis and understand what it means for your future.
Adult children likely have many important things happening in their lives. You may be tempted to downplay the truth to make it easier for them or “lessen the load.” But it’s important to not be vague or dishonest.
Older children are much more likely to already be aware of the seriousness of the disease. Not giving them the full story now could lead to mistrust or worry later.
Adult children will likely have many questions. They may already have a friend or know of a friend’s parent or grandparent dealing with breast cancer.
Before you meet with your children, be prepared to answer some of the more difficult questions. Plan to answer questions about survival rates and the side effects of treatment, like surgeries or hair loss.
You may also want to bring books or online resources about MBC with you. The more information you can give them right away, the sooner they can begin to process your diagnosis and come to terms with it.
Your cancer diagnosis is important, but it shouldn’t be the center of attention at all family events. Your adult children will still need a sense of normalcy every now and then.
Continue to partake in traditions, good conversations, and fun activities. You don’t have to pretend the cancer doesn’t exist, but try to avoid letting it take over all aspects of life.
You may be used to comforting your children in their times of need, but now it’s time to let them comfort you. Embrace this role reversal.
Needless to say, your children are still your children, and they need your support in life. They may have children and families of their own at this point.
Continue to encourage them in their relationships, hobbies, and work. Let them know they can still maintain a sense of normalcy in their lives.
Adult children will most likely want to help, but they may not know where to start. As much as you don’t want to put the burden on your children, it’s important to let them help. It may make them feel a bit more in control of the situation.
Breast cancer treatments can be exhausting. Support from your loved ones can make a big difference in your quality of life. Allowing them to help with some chores also frees up some of your time and energy so you can spend more quality time with family and friends.
Your children will likely want to help, but some support may be more beneficial to receive from others with MBC or a professional.
In-person or online support groups can connect you with others living with MBC. You can share experiences in an open environment where others are going through similar situations as you.
For emotional support, consider professional counseling. This can help free up some emotional energy for your children.
Ask your doctor for a referral to a social worker who can help you with some of the planning and financial aspects of treatment. A social worker can also give you information about other available resources in your community. This will help free up some of your time so you can spend it with your family.
If your child assumes a caretaker role during your treatment and recovery, it’s essential that they receive emotional and psychological support during this time to avoid caregiver burnout. People often underestimate and underappreciate the emotional responsibility of a caretaker.
Kindly suggest that they visit a professional to help them manage stress. Though you already have a lot on your plate, remember to express gratitude for your caregivers. Let them know it’s fine to take a break and allow others to help take care of you for a while.
It’s a good idea to schedule regular family meetings to discuss your progress and divide up responsibilities. This ensures that no one is left out of any important discussions and decisions. It also allows you to take time and space in between meetings to focus on other tasks.
You can ask a social worker to be present at the family meeting if you want. The social worker can help clarify next steps and follow up with each individual family member later on.
An MBC diagnosis can take a toll on an entire family. Your adult children may have many questions and take on different responsibilities to help you through this time.
Be honest with them, let them help you, and remind them to seek support if they need it.