How can I talk about illness issues with family and friends?

It is normal to feel apprehensive about discussing your serious illness with family and friends. You may be sharing the information for the first time, be concerned about sparing their feelings or unsure about how they will react. They also may ask a lot of questions when you feel a certain sense of privacy or simply don’t know all of the answers yourself.  

It is extremely helpful, if possible, to have a medical professional—such as a physician or nurse—be present when you have such conversations. Either way, these are the types of questions that should be addressed when talking with family and friends:

  • What is the current state of your illness?
  • What are the various care options you have?
  • What are the benefits of pursuing them?
  • What are the downsides or risks?
  • What are the alternatives?
  • Can you stop treatment and still get relief from pain and symptoms?
  • What are your personal goals of care? Do you want to aggressively “fight” your disease or, if a cure is not possible, seek quality of life through the benefits of comfort care?
  • Are there experts or other resources available to help you make informed decisions?
  • How will you let key people—such as your immediate family and medical team—know what your wishes are?

Help is available to guide these conversations and help your loved ones understand your illness, how it is progressing…and what that means for all of you.

Learn what help is available to assist with difficult conversations