There comes a time to reveal a difficult diagnosis to those outside the immediate family.
This can be a stressful or liberating experience. Friends may have suspected all along or been completely surprised by the information shared with them.
Revealing your diagnosis is an intimate act because you are sharing something personal with a friend in the hopes they will be supportive.
Because we cannot control others’ reactions after such a revelation, waiting until you are ready to talk is extremely important for your emotional health.
When to Say Something
First of all: you do not owe an explanation for your health. If you choose to divulge your diagnosis, that is a decision only you can make. Do not let anyone else force the matter from you.
If someone is visibly unwell and been so for a while, it may be harder to keep diagnostic information from others, particularly if treatment starts. It may be a relief in telling others because there is finally some information to share, but don’t be surprised if holding onto that information a little longer is more important.
While there might be a temptation to tell people immediately after the diagnosis, waiting until the information is processed is best. It allows for better preparation both with reactions and questions. Knowing which friends can handle the information with care and sensitivity helps in deciding who gets what information first.
But there may be some friends, despite waiting until you are ready, that may scale back the friendship because they don’t know how to handle your diagnosis. This hurts, but being ready for it will help mitigate the pain versus being blindsided. I made this mistake a few times and each time I wish I had waited to reveal my diagnosis or not bothered at all.
Only you will know the right time to divulge information, there isn’t a magic number or “best by” date to tell others.