Telling my 18 year old (studying for A levels) about my diagnosis

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This week I was told I have endometrial cancer - thankfully caught early. I need to have an MRI this coming week to confirm stage 1A or 1B. 

I have been given a date for a hysterectomy- 5.3.24. This could possibly change depending on 1A or 1B. The hospital may also change depending on this, as may some of the treatment. 

I have one ‘child’ - he’s now 18, so an adult. He is due to sit his A levels this May / June and works so hard studying. Like many others in his peer group, he feels the pressure of this and arranges his life around it all. He needs really high grades to go to University and so that is his focus for now and until the end of June. His mocks take place for a week from 19.2.24.

I am intending to tell him about my diagnosis after the mocks as not only will that let him concentrate on revising for them this week and sitting them next week, it should coincide with the review by the MDT of my MRI. Then I will know stage and further details about 

I believe the way that I let him know my news is very important and so I was wondering if there is any advice you can give me regarding this please? 

Thanks in advance. 

  •    Thank you for contacting Macmillan.  I am so sorry to hear you have a diagnosis of endometrial cancer.  

    I can see your schedule is very busy, and in combination with supporting and caring for your son, sometimes life can become overwhelming.  May I take a moment to ask, how are you just now?   Of course, we will give you some options for son, but please feel we are here for you as well.  You are welcome to reach out here, or via webchat or phone us on 0808 808 0000 between 8am and 8pm on any day.

     We appreciate that telling anyone that you have cancer is such a difficult thing to do, and you are right, the way you let your son know your news is so important.  It is better for him to know the truth as soon as you feel able, rather than find out later on.  If he finds out later, he may feel hurt and upset that he wasn’t able to support you.

    I will post some suggestions, but of course you know your son better than anyone, so I am sure you will find the words that are most natural for you.  Try to tell him what in particular is worrying you. It may be easier to narrow this down by taking the conversation in stages and small “chunks”

    You could start by saying something general, such as, ‘I’m worried about how things are at the moment.’.

    If you are struggling, you could try and say something like this:

    • “this is going to be difficult, but I need to tell you something”
    • “You know I have been feeling unwell for a while. I have had some tests and they have found out what’s wrong”

    It may be an option to ask, what he already knows?  This will help, as you can build upon this.  Say a few sentences and check he understands what you are saying before you carry on. You can ask things such as, ‘Does that make sense?’. Asking him if he understands may also help you feel listened to.

    He may not know what to say. Holding hands, hugging or just sitting together can often say more than any words.

    If you find a silence makes you feel uncomfortable, break it with a simple question such as, ‘What are you thinking about?’.

    Don’t be afraid to say how you feel, for example you may say things like “I know you are worried about what could happen, and so am I”  The more aware you are of each other’s feelings, the easier it is to support each other.

    After you have spoken with your son, you may like to have support options immediately to hand.

    I appreciate your son is 18, but you may find the details in the link below helpful:  it also contains a booklet to download with additional support for young people who are affected by cancer.

    Talking to teenagers

    One option mentioned in the booklet is Rip Rap.  This organisation has been developed for teenagers when a parent has cancer.  It has a forum for young people to chat to others in the same situation.

    Rip Rap

    Your son is also welcome to call us, or web-chat with us.  Many young people like to web-chat and this service, like the phone line, is open from 8am to 8pm every day.  The link below will give you more details, with a button to click to open the “chat”

    Macmillan webchat support

       I appreciate you have a lot to think about and I don’t wish to overwhelm you, as you can always come back to us.

    I wish you, and your son, all the very best.

    Take Care


    Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Advisor

  • Thank you for your comprehensive and speedy reply, Liz. I will read and digest it properly, then let you know if I have any questions.

    I just wanted to let you know that whilst this has come as a huge shock to me, I am ok at the moment and managing to stay positive.