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Dear Jane,

A few days ago, my doctor informed me that I have stage 4 breast cancer. The odds are very much not in my favor for various reasons, and she has told me that I need to undergo serious surgery and treatment as soon as possible if I want to have even the smallest chance of surviving.

I am a mother and a wife, and the idea of not seeing my daughter grow up is simply unbearable to me. But the idea of her having to watch me go through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and everything else in between is almost worse.

I can’t stand the thought of my husband having to go it alone – nor can I even think about him moving on with someone else who might one day raise my daughter as her own.

I’ve been sitting with this news quietly for a few days trying to figure out what to do. I haven’t yet told my husband or my daughter about my diagnosis, because I don’t want to burden them with the weight of it.

DEAR JANE: I’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness – is it wrong to keep it SECRET from my family?

Dear Jane, I have been diagnosed with terminal cancer – but I have been keeping the news secret from my husband and daughter 

I have told one close friend who urged me to at the very least share the news with my husband. 

She said it’s not fair for me to keep this incredibly significant thing a secret, that I should let him be a part of the conversation – but I disagree. 

I think it’s important that I understand what road I want to take before I tell him or my daughter about the cancer? Otherwise they’re going to be left as confused and devastated as I am by this whole thing.

In all honesty, I don’t know what I want to do as far as treatment is concerned – but I do know that I want the space to make that decision without having to share in the grief that I know my family will experience when they learn about this.

Am I selfish for wanting to keep this to myself for at least a little bit longer?

International best-selling author Jane Green offers sage advice on DailyMail.com readers' most burning issues in her Dear Jane agony aunt column

International best-selling author Jane Green offers sage advice on DailyMail.com readers’ most burning issues in her Dear Jane agony aunt column


Secret Sickness

Dear Secret Sickness,

My heart is going out to you at such a difficult time. I completely understand you needed some time alone to process what this means for you, without having to take care of anyone else’s grief.

This is your journey, and let no-one tell you what is best for you. 

A cancer diagnosis, particularly, as you know, a stage 4 diagnosis, is life-changing in ways that are unimaginable if you are lucky enough to have never been diagnosed. 

Your life suddenly revolves around hospitals, and doctors, and treatments, and it can be hard to remember who you were before this terrible thing came into your life. 

Take all the time you need to process this yourself, to think through everything you need to think through, before you share it.

Please hear me when I say I know a number of people with a stage 4 diagnosis, who are successfully managing their disease, and have not only survived, but have thrived, for many, many years. 

The ‘C word’ is terrifying to hear, which I know from my own dance with it some years ago, but with immunotherapy and new trials all the time, there is more hope today than ever before.

When you are ready to tell people, I have no doubt that you’ll find their support and care is an invaluable gift on this very hard journey. I send you much love.

Dear Jane,

My daughter has not spoken to me or my family in two years.

I wish I could tell you that there was a real reason for this rift between us, but the truth is, we didn’t fall out – she simply told us that she had some issues with our family before cutting off all contact. 

We’ve tried calling her, we’ve tried emailing her, we’ve tried texting her, but she doesn’t respond to any form of communication.

She moved to the Middle East around the same time that she ended communication with us, and I can’t help but feel that she’s being influenced by the man she is living with. It feels like he’s turned her against all of us.

When my uncle died, she didn’t even send flowers or a note expressing her sympathy. Her aunt is now in hospice care battling stage 4 cancer and dementia, but she hasn’t thought to reach out and ask how she’s doing.

The only person she remains in contact with is her brother, so I’m able to find out via him whether she’s safe, but I feel awful dumping him in the middle of this situation.

I am hurting so much. What can I do?


Broken Ties

Dear Broken Ties,

The modern term for someone ending communication and disappearing without any explanation, is ‘ghosting’, which seems to be what your daughter has done. 

It is particularly painful to be ghosted, never mind the additional pain when it is your child, for with no explanation of what we have done, we are denied the chance to perhaps explain, or apologize.

I don’t know the circumstances, nor whether your daughter tried to explain anything to you before the rift. It can be very hard, as parents, to hear where our children’s pain is coming from, and often we dismiss situations, telling ourselves our children are overreacting, are being too harsh, or are simply wrong. 

Dear Jane’s Sunday service

When families divide, it is too often because one party is holding on to their view of things, refusing to see another point of view. 

Whether it’s politics, differing accounts of childhood, or alcohol or addiction problems, no healing will come unless both sides are willing to listen to the other point of view without trying to dispute it, willing to apologize and take responsibility for their part – even if they do not believe it had that much impact – and willing to move on.

Sometimes it takes something like birth or death to bring about a reconciliation, but this hasn’t yet been the case, and I imagine just how much pain and grief there must be. On both sides.

Although you don’t know what you may have done, the fact that your daughter has chosen to be estranged from you, that she didn’t contact you after your uncle’s death, tells me that she is likely to be in considerable pain as well. 

The only way a reconciliation can happen is when both sides are able to listen to the other’s side of the story without trying to make anyone right or wrong, when both sides can acknowledge their roles, apologize, and set about creating a new relationship.

It is always worth trying to have an open conversation directly with her, one in which you are willing to hear all the reasons why she has chosen this path, without trying to prove her wrong. 

And, you should not talk to her brother about this. In psychological terms talking to her brother rather than her is known as triangulation, which is both manipulative, and toxic.

There is a podcast that I think will be a great resource for you. Calling Home, with licensed therapist, Whitney Goodman LMFT, deals specifically with family dynamics. She has wonderful episodes on estrangement, and reconciliation.

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