Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What to say?

One of the things that has been quite difficult to get through is deciding who to tell what has been happening, and how, and at what point, and in what way... how much detail?

It feels like such a responsibility to lay on someone, and isn't something you can just drop into conversation, obviously. I have actually been writing a post for a while about the different reactions I've been getting from people, but it just isn't coming together so I'm abandoning it and turning it into this one instead.

I've been through a journey with it, and I've also been quite chicken making my mum deal with a lot (most) of it. We had something similar last year when Olly and I decided to get married. I didn't want to offend anyone by not telling them, but I didn't want the attention and hysteria that comes with the conversation - and that was with a much happier story!

I don't think I handled it right when we got married, I think I led some people to believe that I didn't think they were important enough to tell, and I've regretted that a bit. Mostly it's just shyness, but it played on my mind when debating what to do with this new news.

So, who to tell?

Well, family obviously, in the beginning. I left this mostly to mum and with her medicalness and brilliant manner she was able to tailor the news accordingly. Same with family friends, mum did all of that, which was a huge relief. She could relay the messages back to me and I didn't have to get involved at all.

Work. That was a strange one as I'd already taken a week off sick which was playing on my mind - migraines are invisible and I always feel like such a fraud! So I tried to keep them up to date throughout the process which means they got the news pretty much as I did. Quite funny emails to read back now actually. Although must have been a shock, even though I was trying to keep it calm and not so dramatic.

Friends. Umm. This was hard. At first I only told the people that needed to know because I had to change or decline existing plans. My primary concern was that they wouldn't worry and I spent a lot of energy downplaying everything. It's funny how responsible I felt.

And then I got out of hospital and was on a real high, being home. It was a really fantastic time and I felt so LUCKY and just on top of the world (it was the first time I hadn't been in excruciating head pain for about 10 days, and I was on a shed load of drugs...). And I was home with Olly. The news became less relevant and scary and I was being really positive.

I took the opportunity of my mood to make a list of all the people I wanted to hear the news from me, and I emailed them - including the people I work most closely with, although they were all slightly tailored. I tried to make it upbeat and funny, and positive and fun.

People were impressed and I was proud of myself. I felt like I'd impressed everyone with being so practical and positive. People even said that. For a while I was satisfied. I thought everyone who needed to know now knows, they're not worried, and everyone else will find out when they do and it will be fine.

And then I started to get really down and miserable, and all these people thought I was totally fine and there was nothing to worry about and it drove me INSANE. It was totally me that had engineered the whole situation and now here I was demanding more sympathy and attention which I had been desperately trying to shun in the first place. Contrary? Me?

And so, to my shame, I started to tell people for shock tactics. Hello woman at Thames Water - very sorry about that (although I didn't get passed to the debt collector so would probably do it again). Woman in the scarf shop - you didn't really need to know the EXACT reason I was buying a scarf... And my lovely hairdresser, who was incredibly kind and had exactly the right attitude, I hope I didn't make it too awkward (who am I kidding!).

Culminating in a situation yesterday at the hospital, where a woman came to tell me she'd like to give me a leaflet on epilepsy. I just looked at her and said, "I've got a brain tumour, not epilepsy. Thanks though". She looked TERRIBLE. She had no idea what to say and literally backed away from me, apologising. And then I felt terrible too and it was just, horrendous.

So I'm now hoping to go full circle. Things get better and they get worse, depending on a variety of factors, like what I've had to eat today and which film I have just watched. Or have I just been drawn a diagram of how to enter one's own brain.

But I think (hope) I'm coming out the other side. I think the trick is to answer the questions, but not to volunteer too much detail. Keep it brief, but real. And try and gauge how green the other person is at all times!

Do you know what - any tips on this would be really welcome. I'm sure there's a whole load on the internet but I'm avoiding forums. But please tell me if I've gone too far, or been too mysterious. It really seems very hard to balance.


  1. My tuppence, for what its worth: Although it probably feels very different, telling people about your tumour is no different from any other interaction. What you say and how you say it completely depends on how much you care what the other person thinks and what response you want to get. You're good at this Jen,I've seen you at work. :) if you want sympathy, be forthright but break it in gently. "I'm ill...it's qute serious...I have a brain tumour. This will give people a chance to deal with the shock, muster their thoughts and prepare a response. If you don't care what someone thinks you can be as brutal as you like, or just not tell them.

    As to worrying about telling people, there is no harm in leaving it to others to spread the news. It sounds like you've told the most important people. People will understand if you don't spend everyday on the phone recounting the same news, you've enough on your plate to worry about the sensitivity of others, and if they don't understand, we'll fuck 'em, what are they going to do about it, accuse you of being self-obsessed? Who, in your situation, doesn't have the right to focus on yourself and your inner circle of friends and family.

    Anyhow, I was very much looking forward to seeing you tomorrow, but I've come down with a heavy cold. ( I know, first your news and then I get ill, jeez) Probably the last thing you want, so ill probably just send my wife along as a proxy. Come round for dinner soon, I'll make that caramel sauce again. Xx

    1. Yey! Wife! xx

      I guess a cold isn't great at this point but let's see how snotty you are tomorrow as it would be very lovely to see you. My mum says it might be ok as long as I don't lick your snot - are you ok with that? And we could make you sit outside with a mask on and point and laugh. And feed you biscuits through the window. Yeh? xx

    2. erm............ as i recall i said maybe you could go to the pub and sit outside in a thick coat and scarf.......

      i rest your case....


    3. Aren't you supposed to be reading about statistics? Upstairs?

  2. Oh jees ... it's taken me 3 days of reading this to get the blog title ... I'm there now though!

    When it comes to telling people you'll have already told the people you feel you need to have know, and everyone else can find out on the grapevine. You don't owe anybody an explanation or a first hand account of what's going on inside your head ... just realised in your case that's both emotionally and medically - 2 birds one stone ... boom!

    As far as the women handing out epilepsy leafets, maybe best to just leave her to her day? ... anyone who tries to strike up nosy interfering conversation though is deffo just asking for it! especially those nobs who say "cheer up love, it might never happen" to complete strangers ... just rude! Through various points in my ridiculous life my favourite response has become "or it already has and that's just bloody insensitive!" - tends to shut them up!

    You just need to worry about making sure you're as okay as you can be dude ... you need to find your own balance and what works for you, everyone else can just learn to fit around that!


    1. Glad you got there in the end dude, did anyone help you? Thanks v much - you're so full of wisdom, you should write a book Smegs I would tell everyone to buy it and then you'd be famous and could go on This Morning xxx