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Patient perspective: telling your loved ones you have cancer

written by

Leukaemia Care, Charity

  • O6OBV20 - SMALL

When I was first diagnosed, I phoned my parents, who are divorced so I had to make two separate phone calls. I phoned my Dad first and then my Mum. I don't remember word for word what I said but they both came to my house practically straight away. When they arrived I had to explain what my diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). As I only just found out it was very overwhelming trying to understand myself what I had and what was yet to come. My parents were supportive and over the following weeks, they always kept in touch to see what was next and how I was. They got leaflets on my CML and booklets so they understood it even more and made them more aware.

I told my sisters and obviously they were shocked and asked me questions like what's going to happen and will I be put on medication?

I got leaflets and booklets myself to make my family and friends more aware and understand better. I always was honest with everything that was happening.

However, telling my children was totally different. When I was first diagnosed I was 21 weeks pregnant, and my son was three years old. All I told him at that stage was Mummy’s blood is not the best, that's why Mummy goes to the hospital a lot. My son came to the hospital when I had scans or routine blood tests, but I didn't allow him to come with me when I had leukopherisis (a procedure where white blood cells are separated out from a sample of blood).

My son was always given that information, until one day.

It was 31st December 2014, my son, Lewis was seven years old. We were watching a movie and the adverts came on. One advert came on about cancer and my son, said; ‘you have cancer Mummy don't you?’ I said yes, and asked him what he thought it was and he said; ‘Mummy’s ill’. I explained to him the best I could but I wasn't ready at that time to try and explain everything, but I felt I really had to.

I did say I wasn't well and explained that it was my bloods that was making me poorly. Lewis, my son was very good. I told him that I will have to take tablets for the rest of my life to help with my blood. It was very sad talking about this and another experience I had to do. Especially when I was diagnosed four years prior to this. I knew one day I would have to talk to my children about this but you don't have a fixed day or year when you are going to it. When you do, it’s very upsetting and hard trying to say the right words.

My son who is now nine years old is great. He rarely gets upset about my cancer and is more aware, which I think makes it easier for him rather than trying not to tell him.  

My daughter who is six years old, knows I have cancer as well but doesn't quite understand about it yet, so I will have to explain it to her, when, I am not sure. She knows Mummy’s blood is not the best and my tablets make me better. So I am halfway there.

Explaining to any family member especially your own children is one of the hardest things you will ever experience. There will be tears, why me? A lot of explaining, things that you will not understand straight away.  Your family members won’t always understand straight away.

I am glad my children know what's wrong with me, because when I have my bad days, they have a better understanding and help me more. They won't hear it from somebody else because I have explained to them myself.


We have additional information about the emotional impact of a blood cancer here or in our booklet here.

If you would like to request a paper version of our booklet you do so by calling 08088 010 444 or online here.


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