So, if it's so difficult, why bother? Why is it worth talking about what's going on if it makes you and your friends feel uncomfortable? Well there are many things to be gained -- and a lot of them will do a great deal to help you through any uncertainties or difficulties that may lie ahead. Perhaps these are best thought of under two headings -- things which give you support, and things which enable you to get control over your situation.
How talking can give you support
First of all there is a basic human comfort in communicating deep feelings. Generally humans seem to get comfort from talking to each other, and fears or concerns which are voiced are somehow put into perspective by talking about them. That's probably the basis of the old proverb `a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved'.
Secondly, if there are unresolved questions -- things that you have been thinking about, and about which you can't make up your mind -- you'll often find that you have already decided on the answer without being aware of it, and that you only realise the answer when you phrase the question. In other words, talking about something often teaches you how you feel about it.
Thirdly, if your listener hears your fears or concerns and then simply stays with you (thereby showing that you are not being rejected) that also changes your attitudes to what you had been thinking or worrying about. It makes you feel that your fears or worries are normal -- if your friend can hear about them and not run away, then perhaps these fears are not as bizarre or strange or ugly as you feared. Next there is the point that talking about a fear or a worry often stops it growing in our minds. Very often when we are mulling something over in our thoughts, the fear or concern seems to amplify itself -- to grow in size and stature in our imagination until it becomes very threatening, even overwhelming. Once the fear or concern is out in the open and is being discussed, that process of amplification often stops.
Finally -- and this is difficult to express clearly -- conversation around something we feel deeply about can produce a special closeness. Perhaps the right word is `contact' but the conversation about something important or personal produces a bond between the participants which is valuable in itself.
Things which help you feel in control of your situation
Basically, we would all like to have control over our health, and over the diseases that threaten it. If we can't have that, then most of us would like to have control over the treatment. And if that isn't possible, we'd certainly want to have control over the information about our situation.
Very often, when the diagnosis is cancer, it feels as if we have little or no control over the disease or its treatment. And it is true that in many situations, the number of treatment options are very limited. There is often one treatment plan which offers a chance of improvement, and no real alternative.
Certainly you can always decide not to have any treatment; sometimes that's the right decision, but often it isn't. And so that feeling of `I haven't got a choice really' is very common. It's also very unpleasant, and leads to feelings of powerlessness and resentment. Now two of the things that decrease these feelings are information and being able to talk things over with other people and let them know what you think. The more information you have about your situation and the better you become at talking about it, the more you feel involved in your own care, and the more you feel (at least in part) in control. And that means that you will really benefit from conversation with your medical team, and then with your friends and family about what you have learned (and perhaps what they have learned) from your medical team. Knowledge of your illness and its treatment gives you some form of power.
So these are just some of the benefits of talking about the subjects which worry you. Now let's move on to discuss how you can make the conversation easier.