Talking about cancer

I've met someone new, and I'm not sure if it's the right time to tell her I have cancer.

Advice columnist and relationship expert Matt Whyman answers:

Getting to know someone takes time. It's about establishing a level of trust as you learn about each other and feel comfortable in each other's company. The more time you spend with this person, the easier it will be to relax with them.

Take your time 

Opening up about having cancer is bound to be tough. The key is knowing that you can handle her response, whatever that might be. Don't feel you have to rush into it. Often, having the facts about your illness and treatment will help to put her in the picture. Before addressing the issue, you might also want to have a close friend or family member on hand that you can turn to should you need their support.

Give her time

Even if your new girlfriend reacts badly, it's worth remembering that there is support available, for you and as a couple. It may help her to handle things better if she can understand your situation, and has time to get used to it. 

Ultimately, there's no way of knowing how this person might react. At the same time, if she really cares then she'll recognise that cancer is just one aspect of your life right now. Even if it takes a while for her to come to terms with the situation, she won't lose sight of the reasons why you were attracted to each other in the first place, and nor should you.

There's no 'right time' to talk

Lucia, a 25-year-old who's had cancer says: "I don't think there is ever a 'right time' to tell somebody about your cancer. This is a completely personal choice and everyone is different. It can also depend on how long it is since you were first diagnosed, whether you’re having treatment or what your prognosis may be."

Clinical phsychologist Kate Hancock also advises: "Deciding who to tell about having cancer, and when, is one area where you can feel like you still have some control over your life. A good benchmark is to put yourself in their shoes. If the positions were reversed, when would you like to be told?"

Content added: November 2015
Review due: November 2017