Concerns Over Sharing Cancer News

By Amy Dickinson | May 10th, 2024

Man worries more about his loved ones than himself

sad, pensive man looking out the window, with concerns about sharing cancer news with friends and family

This 57-year-old accepts his grave cancer diagnosis, but he’s concerned about sharing cancer news with friends. See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson recommends.

Dear Amy:

I’m a 57-year-old man. I was recently diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer. I am obviously not overjoyed, but I am totally accepting of this news. Living with – not dying of – cancer means a few lifestyle changes and the need to be more aware of things.

My cancer is not curable, but it is treatable; similar to many other illnesses.

I have a large circle of family, friends, and acquaintances who have been supportive of me during my life. I have chosen to share my diagnosis with only a few of them.

While I’m OK with my cancer, I know it isn’t going to be well received by most people, and so that’s why I’ve decided to keep it private. I hate seeing people I care about being in pain and/or distressed and knowing the knowledge of my illness will cause this in turn causes me much more pain and distress than the cancer ever will.

These folks would definitely step up and help in whatever way they can. I know that after I pass and the news of the cancer becomes known, many of my friends will be blaming themselves for not noticing “the signs,” and will feel awful for that as well.

I don’t want people to fawn over me and treat me differently, but I feel guilty about keeping this a secret.

I’m not sure what I’m asking you for, but I’m at a loss about what I should do.

Thanks for being here.

– Accepting my Diagnosis

Dear Accepting:

I’m impressed by your equanimity regarding your diagnosis, but I think you’re also getting a little ahead of yourself.

It is natural to see your future in a telescoped way right now, and you seem to be focused on anticipating not only your ongoing feelings, but the feelings and reactions of others.

But people are complicated, and feelings (including yours) change through time.

You should anticipate that the news of your diagnosis could leak out, and if so, other people will react across a spectrum. Some will be worried, some helpful, and some people will mean well, but be downright annoying.

I highly recommend that you connect with other men who have prostate cancer, meeting both in-person (if possible), and virtually. Your treatment center will have information about local groups.

Oftentimes it is strangers who can step up with great understanding and pointed advice and support. The American Cancer Society’s cancer survivor network hosts active, informative, and supportive discussion boards for men with prostate cancer. (Check

In addition to reviewing your treatment options with other men who are going through this, they can communicate about how aspects of your diagnosis and prognosis will affect your life and relationships.

Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from sharing cancer news to dark family secrets and DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

©2024 by Amy Dickinson

From Supporting friends with illnesses

More from Boomer