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There are many reasons people whose lives are touched by cancer don’t talk about it.  Going public is a personal choice and it is vital we respect each individual’s decision on what, when and how much to share about their journey.  For public figures, sharing news of their diagnosis generates awareness and can have a widespread ripple effect including:

  • increase in donations to cancer-related non-profits to provide research, information and badly needed support services
  • elevation in education regarding prevention and taking part in regular screenings
  • a connection for those suffering in silence to feel they are not alone
  • a recognition that cancer doesn’t discriminate

When someone like, JC Hayward goes public with her personal battle, it is a reminder that we need to continue to raise funding in the fight against cancer, that those diagnosed with cancer and their loved ones are not alone and that we all owe ourselves, our friends & family and our communities regular participation in screenings at the appropriate times. 

At the time of my late husband’s diagnosis, he chose to keep silent except for a small, inner circle of family and friends.  He wanted to keep working through treatment and with the unforgiving and self-centered nature of the film industry, he knew the chances of being discriminated against due to his medical condition were relatively high.  Because we worked together, it meant there was very little support for either of us available.  We had to lean on each other a lot and choose selectively who in the workplace could know.  He was responsible, of course, and notified “need to know” people, but for the most part, we were on our own.

It took a lot of extra energy to keep our secret and some smoke and mirrors at times as well.  Many people work in “normal” jobs where they are protected by anti-discrimination laws.  Freelancers have a challenging time being covered by these protections, yet they need their union days to maintain health insurance coverage.  I cannot imagine the devastating financial effects we would have suffered had Gary not been able to keep up his health insurance.

There are reasons people choose to “suffer in silence” and as loved ones, friends and family, we need to support their personal choices.  However, reading about stories such as JC Hayward’s makes me grateful for the awareness she is raising and the role model she is being.  There is a great gift in the support and caring we can receive when we share our challenges with others and a cost to keeping secrets.  There is no right or wrong way to handle a cancer diagnosis as it must be left to the individual to know what is best for them but it is also important to understand the cost of keeping it to yourself.

To all the public figures and celebrities who share their stories, thank you…there is a difference you make in this world and it is a blessing to the community engaged in the fight against cancer.

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