Communicating your diagnosis
Following your diagnosis of breast cancer, it may help to take some time to consider who you want or need to share your diagnosis with and how much you want to disclose.
I could see that some people were awkward with me at first, as though they didn’t know what to say to me.
Deciding whether to share your diagnosis
I found that by taking the lead and talking about my breast cancer and the other things that were happening in my life, they soon relaxed and were able to treat me normally.
Business clients may need to know if existing contracts/agreements will be affected. This does not mean you have to tell them you have breast cancer, but if you do, they may be more understanding.
If you decide not to share your diagnosis with your clients, think about how you can use technology to manage relationships. For example, having teleconferences rather than face-to-face meetings to avoid having to explain your hair loss.
If you decide to share information about your diagnosis the following may help:
- Think ahead and write down a few notes as prompts.
- Choose an appropriate time when you’re feeling up to it and there are no distractions.
- Consider how you will tell them – is it better in person, over the phone etc.
- Be prepared for the emotions you or the person you’re telling may experience.
- Be prepared to answer questions, but remember, you are in control of how much information you disclose.
Tips for sharing your diagnosis with your clients
- Be direct and talk about what you know. For example, confirm your working hours and advise the best way to contact you (e.g. during treatment you may suggest clients email you to set up a time to talk).
- Communicate your abilities and emphasise your strengths with statements such as, 'My hours may change, but the project will still be delivered on time.'
- Try to maintain a professional relationship with your client. You may not want to share your fears and worries.
- Think about alternative or flexible ways of working that could suit both your needs.
- If you have physical side effects such as hair loss, you may want to postpone meetings in person. Use technology, such as email or conference calling, to stay in touch. If you speak to your client about your cancer, you may feel comfortable with a face-to-face meeting.
- Be prepared for a range of reactions if you tell a client about your health. Some people will be compassionate, others may be more aloof. Some clients may choose to work with someone else.
- Consider subcontracting some work or referring clients to someone else if you can’t meet their needs.