Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
I was just diagnosed with stage two melanoma. I think I’m going to be OK, and I’m fully insured, so as far as my personal trauma from this, I am managing. The question I am torn over is whether or not I should tell my mother.
Mom lives alone and takes medication for an anxiety disorder. Her heart isn’t good. When my brother was diagnosed with a less dangerous type of skin cancer last year, he told her about it and she worried and fretted so much she made herself ill and had to be hospitalized. It turns out she needn’t have worried at all because his problem was been treated successfully and shows no signs of coming back. Melanoma is a little more serious and there’s a chance things could go wrong at this stage. However, there’s also a good chance I’ll respond well to the treatment and I’ll go on to live to a ripe old age.
I’m sure my mother would be hurt to the max if this was serious and I didn’t let her know. But it seems that until I have a better idea where this is going, I should keep her in the dark for her own well being. They say honesty is the best policy, but in this case, I’m really not sure. What do you think?
There are no clear textbook answers here- you have to balance the potential damage of secrets against your mom’s tendency to overreact in a damaging way. What I will say is that past behavior predicts future behavior. If your mom went ballistic with worry in the past, she will do it again in this current situation and probably in any future events as well.
If your brother is strong enough to be your support within the family I would lean on him instead. Of course he would have to keep the secret too. If your mom finds out some day and is pissed off and says, “what, you think I couldn’t handle it?” you can look her in the eye, and respond with, “yes, that’s exactly what I think.”
If your heath does take a turn for the worse I don’t recommend keeping it from her, regardless of how crazy she might get. Her craziness, although a bit self-centered, is still her way of caring. And caring is all that will matter at that point.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: I seldom agree entirely with Dr. B, but in this case, there is nothing good that can come from telling the truth to your mom in these initial stages. It would be like yelling, “Fire! Run for your life!” in a crowded movie theater when, in fact, you’d just discovered that some idiot threw a cigarette butt in a garbage can and you can probably put it out with a glass of water.
However- if the smoldering begins to grow, starts inching towards the velvet curtains and there’s no water in sight…you might want to reconsider. Everyone has the right to know when their life, or the life of someone they love, is truly in danger.