Tips for Telling Your Co-Workers About Your Cancer Diagnosis

When it comes to your medical history and health concerns, what you choose to divulge is up to you.
At the time of your cancer diagnosis, you may have decided to keep that information to yourself rather than sharing it with your coworkers. Now, as a cancer survivor ready to return to the workplace, you will once again need to decide how much information you wish to share.

While you could keep your cancer diagnosis a secret from coworkers, it really isn’t practical. After all, it’s likely you’ll look different when you return to work then you did when you left. You may be wearing a wig or your hair may be growing back. Perhaps you lost a significant amount of weight. Maybe you have some obvious lingering side effects from cancer treatment. If you don’t provide some sort of an explanation for these physical changes, your coworkers will probably worry about your overall health. When you do tell them, prepare for questions— but try to remember that it’s mostly out of concern for you!

How much information you divulge and how you approach these conversations is up to you. If you aren’t comfortable with being very open about your cancer journey, only share the highlights. No matter what you choose to share, just remember that most of your coworkers, including your boss, will be most concerned about how you’re doing physically and emotionally.

To make it easier to share your cancer journey with coworkers, we’ve compiled some tips to get you started.

  1. Decide What Information You’re Comfortable Sharing
    Are you one who’s comfortable discussing your medical issues openly?
    Or, do you prefer keeping it general?
     
  2. Anticipate Questions You Don’t Want to Answer
    More often than not, coworkers will respect your boundaries. However, if you encounter people who simply can’t keep their curiosity to themselves, be ready with a response that will stop the conversation.
     
  3. Decide Who to Tell
    You’ll probably feel more comfortable sharing more information with coworkers you’ve become friends with. For those you don’t interact with very often, but who may notice your absence, a less-detailed explanation should suffice.
     
  4. Decide How to Tell
    Remember, how, when, where, why, and with whom you share your cancer experiences is totally up to you.
    There is no right or wrong way to go about it. There is only a way that is right for you.

 

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