Keep it a Secret?

Years ago, cancer was one of those unspoken words.  In fact, in most obituaries, if cancer was the cause of death, it wasn’t mentioned.  “Died after a long illness” was usually code for cancer.

There are still families who keep a cancer diagnosis secret from the kids.  I assume they think by hiding the information, they are protecting the children from the added stress that comes with cancer.  I’m not sure avoiding the word is going to stop the way life changes around the house after a diagnosis.

Wu Minxia, a Chinese diver at the London Olympics, who just won a gold medal,   found out her mother has breast cancer.  Her parents decided to keep the information a secret for years!  That’s right, years.  Wu, like many Chinese children, left her home to train for the Olympics when she was small.  Her parents didn’t see her much, so they said, they didn’t want to interrupt her training with that kind of news. 

Her mom is in remission now, so with the bad news, came good news too. 

And a gold medal. 




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Catherine August 3, 2012 at 4:07 am

There are still many places in the world where cancer isn’t discussed (look at the work of One Wig Stand in Beirut that tries to break through the practice of keeping cancer secret) and has a stereotype that ‘taints’ a person. The only way past this is for more discussion. It’s the hardest thing to break the news of cancer and I can only imagine how much more difficult it would be to feel obligated to keep it a secret. We’re lucky to have so many forums, whenever a person is ready, for cancer patients to discuss and find connections.


kathie August 1, 2012 at 8:41 pm

I promised our children that I wouldn’t keep any secrets from them and we never did. They had a right to know just how sick their dad was…we all need to know to take advantage of the time left. The urge to protect ones children is overwhelming but adult children,unfortunately, must face adult issues. Had they been small the information would have been dfferent I think.


Al August 1, 2012 at 7:24 pm

It is a natural inclination to shield your children from bad news when possible. We tried to do it until we knew the exact diagnosis and the next steps. Now my children, no so much the grandchildren, know all of the details and possible outcomes when I’ve faced the beast once again. I want them to know just how hard I’ll fight to remain here with them. I want them to know how much I love them and would do anything for them. I want them to know the power of prayer and hope and perseverance even when things don’t look so good……Always Believe In Miracles. It is possible and has happened ’cause I have witnessed one…not me but someone else. I want to feel their strength and love as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I want them to know that I’m not afraid to die but that I don’t want to leave them just yet. I want to live long enough to see my grandchildren educated, married and with children of their own….this would be so special to me but not too likely (see Miracles above). I want them to know that death is a part of life and that one day we all will meet God face to face and hear His words….”Well Done My Good and Faithful Servant”.


Ned Lemon August 1, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Al-I’ve never mentioned this,but I have been diagnosed twice with melanoma.Many years ago,a very good dermatologist (Dr Jack Ditty of Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital) looked me in the eye and said I should thank the friend who had scheduled my initial appointment.He said she may have saved my life.In the last two decades I’ve had to suffer a couple of pretty good incisions,but early detection has made all the difference.Two years ago some extractions came back defined as “containing irregular cells”, but just today I was told- “biopsy looks good, see ya next year”.Laurie makes sense-I don’t need to hold on to my little secret-cancer grows in the silence. After losing my wife and after witnessing her great courage,it feels a little trite to be so concerned about my seemingly minor issues,but I have felt a little bit of what you’re going through.We are very different men,but I have tremendous love and respect for you.There have been times when your thoughtfulness and wisdom cushioned some very beastly blows.Anyway,I have mixed emotions tonight-great relief mixed with uncertainty.I came home from the doctor in great spirits only to find my special little Border Collie in an acute Addison’s crisis.I should know by now,after the last five years,life can change in an instant. -Best regards & special prayers for you and your grandchildren.


Al August 2, 2012 at 8:47 am

Ned, you are doing it the right way…all over skin checkups annually. Melanoma is just so insidious…a little spot here and soon its everywhere. I’ve been fortunate to discover all of my melanomas…primary and recurrences. All on the left side of my face. I knew that the freckles that appeared weren’t there before so I had them biopsied and were melanoma. Another was a BB under the skin and another was the tragus (piece of skin in front of ear) that lit up on a scan.

Sometimes melanoma waits for years to reappear but then comes with a vengence. Be digilent.

Sorry to hear about your collie. Hope all is now well.


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