A breast cancer patient’s journey – Blog Post 7 – Telling the family that I have breast cancer

Ruth Taylor
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Ruth Taylor, 45, is a mum of two who was diagnosed with breast cancer back in May 2016. We are honoured to share her journey from initial diagnosis, informing her family, through to chemo and radiotherapy. She hopes to raise awareness and educate others about breast cancer, while firmly kicking cancer back where it belongs. This is the seventh instalment in her guest blog.
So, now that we knew what we were dealing with, we started to think about who we should tell and when. I didn't necessarily want to keep it a secret, but at the same time I certainly didn't want to broadcast it via a Facebook post! Thoughts went to immediate family. Laura was in the middle of her exams and there was no way I was going to jeopardise those. She was also due to go to Mannheim in Germany at the beginning of July and I wondered how she would cope being away staying with a family she had not met before, when see knew I was ill.

So we decided for the time being that we would not tell the kids, but I felt the need to share my news with people who were close to me, so that I would have some support.  I decided it would not be a good idea to tell my Mum - at 88 she was starting to show signs of becoming more frail and she had been through a huge amount of upset during the last year over the break up of my sister's marriage. This also was the same for my sister Annie and so I looked closer to home and to the person who I regarded as an older sister, who had cared for my two children from the age of just a few months and was like a second Mum to them, our child minder, Mary. So, I went round to her house that evening and broke the news to her and in her usual fashion she was very compassionate and resolute that everything would be fine, and assured me she would be there for me and Andrew and the kids every step of the way.

It has always tickled me how sensitive Mary is and the number of times I have seen a tear in her eye when either she or I have been recounting tales of woe regarding the kids, whether it be Josh struggling with peers at school, or Laura enduring huge amounts of pain with problems she has had with her knees, but Mary has always managed to keep it together and tonight was no exception. I was taken aback by the huge hug she gave me, and the realisation of the depth of her feelings for me.

Telling close relatives and friends

Over the next few days we told various close relatives and friends. My sister in law Sue, was very reassuring, as a senior nurse working in the kids hospital in Aberdeen, she was always calm and collected and I felt very fortunate knowing that she’d be close at hand when I had to go into the hospital for my operation.  I went through to Elgin to see Andrew’s sister, as I felt she should hear it from me rather than from anyone else – I had phoned her in the morning and arranged to see her after work.  She instantly knew something was up and was wondering all day what would bring me up to Elgin in the middle of the week.  I explained I wanted to tell her before she went away on a tour of Europe with her husband Chris, as I knew I would have my operation while they were still away.

The hardest part was telling people over the phone.  I couldn’t tell everyone face to face and it was so much harder to gauge how they had taken the news when you were speaking to them on the phone and had no visual clues to pick up on.  I decided the best way to tell my team at work would be by email, so that they all got the news at the same time.  Once sent, I knew that the news would spread quickly, so I knew I needed to contact my close friend Alison who worked in the Aberdeen office and catch up with her before the grapevine did!  So, I rang her extension and got through to her and after catching up on her latest, I brought the conversation round to my news.  I could hear the shock in her voice and instantly realised I shouldn’t have told her in this way.  She was clearly very upset and I tried to reassure her that everything was in hand and I was getting very good treatment and everything would be fine.  I was surprised and touched by her reaction which was completely unexpected, and at the same time I felt mortified that I had caused her so much upset whilst at work.  I dropped a message to my line manager who worked in the same office, to forewarn him that she was upset and asked him to check to see she was OK.  I then felt even worse later that afternoon when another colleague told me that my line manager had sent her home to work from home for the rest of the day.  She has since forgiven me and has been so amazing in the way she has supported me throughout – our friendship has grown stronger and closer and I feel very lucky to have so many people genuinely concerned for me and wanting to help in any way possible.

Telling the kids

After discussing it with Andrew and once Laura’s exams were over, we decided to tell the kids.  I wanted not to make a big deal about it and so we thought it would be best to tell them over dinner.  So we broached the subject one evening when we were all sat round the kitchen table tucking in to our tea.  We kept it as simple as possible and explained that I had found a lump and that I would need to go in to hospital for an operation to get it removed and after that I would need chemotherapy and radiotherapy to make sure it didn’t come back.  The kids seemed to be completely unphased, it was almost as if I had told them I was going into hospital to get a toe nail removed.  We told them that if they had any questions, no mater how silly they thought they might seem, that they should ask away and we promised them that we would tell them everything that was going on.  I was taken aback at how calmly they took the news and I wondered whether they appreciated the enormity of it, or whether they were hiding their true feelings.  I hoped that they were honestly not overly concerned and I was relieved that it had gone so well.

Missed the previous blog posts?

Post 6 - Results

Post 5 - Doctors Appointment

Post 4 - Waiting for the biopsy results

Post 3 - Biopsy & Results

Post 2 - The One Stop Shop

Post 1 - Introducing #RuthsJourney

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