by Doug Ulman
Some people ask. Some people tell. Is there a right approach or a wrong approach?
Judd Apatow’s newest major picture made me think hard about one of the seminal decisions that people diagnosed with cancer (or any other major illness) have to make. Do they tell anyone about their illness? Or do they keep it a total secret.
To each his/her own. Why do some choose to speak up. And others remain silent. Do some simply crave the social and emotional support? Most likely.
Do others fear the stigma that still exists? Maybe so.
Are some nearly paralyzed by the news and they just do not know where to turn? Absolutely.
Whatever path one takes, navigating a cancer diagnosis is not easy. It is terribly difficult.
In “Funny People,” Adam Sandler chooses not to initially expose his diagnosis to anyone as he fears that people will treat him differently. Reflecting on my own experience I can understand his point of view. After all, 13 years removed from my own diagnosis there are still people who ask me “how I feel?”
“How do I feel?” I feel great. I feel fine. Maybe they ask because their frame of reference for me is that I was sick once. Maybe they ask because they don’t know what else to say? Regardless, it is a constant reminder that once you share your story you may have to deal with these comments and references for the rest of your life.
Cancer is a disease in the body but it most certainly also brings a social element that is not all that well understood. This is the essence of the word “survivorship.” This is why building a community of survivors is so important.
There is no right or wrong path to choose. I am glad I chose early on to share my experience with others but that doesn’t mean there aren’t days when I wish, cancer, wasn’t the topic of conversation.
Judd Apatow has successfully highlighted an issue that is relevant to everyone with cancer and I applaud him for that. He also has found a way to express his own family’s experience with the disease so that others might benefit in some way by thinking about this issue, to tell or not to tell, that is the question.