Why would someone keep a cancer diagnosis a secret? Expert explanation.

Why would someone keep a cancer diagnosis a secret?  Expert explanation.
Paul Reubens has not been diagnosed with cancer.  Here's why some people prefer to keep their health news private.  (Photo: Getty Images)

Paul Reubens has not been diagnosed with cancer. Here’s why some people prefer to keep their health news private. (Photo: Getty Images)

With the announcement that Paul Reubens had passed away from cancer at the age of 70, came this week Apologies on Instagramfrom actor Pee-Wee Herman himself, “for not making public what I’ve been going through for the past six years.”

While it’s unclear who was known in Robbins’ life and not about his illness, some famous friends have expressed their shock to hear about it — including actress Daryl Hannah, comedian Cathy Griffin and talent manager Jay Oseary.

the singer David Bowiethe book Nora Ephron And Jackie Collins and actors Norm MacDonald And Chadwick Boseman She’s also reportedly kept her cancer diagnoses quiet, as many non-famous people have — whether because they think it’s the “loving” thing to do, as one writer Share an article On his wife’s decision to keep her terminal illness away from their children, or as another writer She said about keeping her breast cancer a secretTo prevent illness from becoming part of her identity.

Actually, research on this topic – including study About men with prostate cancer and Small study Comparing disclosure patterns between women and men (with men being more secretive)—”suggests that there are a variety of reasons” for maintaining the privacy of such a diagnosis, says Kelsey Willis, a Massachusetts General Hospital fellow who specializes in psycho-oncology.

“Cancer is almost synonymous with lack of control,” Willis tells Yahoo about what often makes decisions about disclosure. “And your choice sometimes gives you control over a very uncertain situation.”

Other considerations: work, loved ones, and self-identity

“The first thing to understand,” says Leora Lowenthal, president of the international nonprofit. Association of Social Workers in Oncology“is that this is an incredibly personal and individual decision, and for each individual, there will be multiple considerations. One of them may be what it means to be defined or understood differently.”

She notes that these considerations could be even more extreme for famous people like Robbins.

“For celebrities, the line one crosses to leave privacy is very explosive,” she says. “I can’t even imagine what it would be like knowing that if I mentioned to someone that I had cancer, it might be on the front pages. Because after that, there’s really no turning back.”

For anyone with a career mindset, there may be some “concern about protecting current and future employment possibilities”, especially if you are You think that people “see that you have limited time or limited ability”. For practical guidance on what to disclose at work, Lowenthal, a senior clinical social worker in the division of psychosocial oncology and palliative care at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, tells Yahoo encourages people to “know your rights” and consult with mentors like the ones he provided. Cancer triage.

But, she adds, “there is also the question of how this will affect your personal relationships.”

Willis explains, “People want to avoid burdening others with their illness, and they want to kind of protect them,” even if that means they “sometimes cut themselves off from the social support they could receive” as a result. The fear of this burden can be overwhelming when it comes to telling not just spouses or partners, but aging parents — especially children.

Sometimes letting some people out is necessary for self-protection. “We know that patients with cancer have to find this balance between how much the disease consumes their life and how much they live a ‘normal life,’ and that’s always a tightrope,” Willis says. It can be easy to throw off balance due to the needs or reactions of others.

“Patients talk all the time about how sometimes people who don’t expect their lives to escalate are the ones who come out of the woodwork and drop off meals,” she adds. While it is not always predictable, it is important to seriously think about how people interact and how that, in turn, may affect your emotional state.

Lowenthal noted among her patients that “some might say, ‘I want to know a few people, so I can get support,’ but I don’t want everyone to know, because I don’t want people to worry and call every five minutes asking how I am,” which… It can increase anxiety,” she explains. “It’s hard to contain your experience and your emotions around (the news) when you’re also trying to manage the experience and emotional response of the people around you.”

When deciding who to tell, she advises people to “start small,” with “a circle of people that you really feel comfortable and confident will respond (in this way) what you need. … You can always tell more people, but once you tell a lot of people It’s hard not to tell.”

What about loved ones who are left to face trauma?

Says Lowenthal, “I might talk to a grieving family member and say, ‘Try to understand that whatever their choice, we’re going to guess they did it because it was right for them, and that was the reason they needed to do it.’”

It’s something she says she learned on a personal level, when a relative went to visit other family members after learning of her terminal cancer diagnosis — and they didn’t share the news. “She didn’t want them to know, because she didn’t want to color the visit. And I imagine some of the family wondering ‘How could she not give us this opportunity to really say goodbye?'” Doing so, Lowenthal said, was “extremely painful” for her relative, and she “didn’t want to spend time together.” sadness or farewell; She just wanted to spend time with her loved ones.”

She adds, “Ultimately, I don’t think we can ever know why someone would choose to keep something a secret. But for me, it’s okay to respect the fact that everyone can choose what’s best for them to manage and live with a cancer diagnosis. There is such a thing.” Losing control…and keeping things private is a version of being in control.”

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