In addition to figuring out whom to tell and how to tell them, give some serious thought to what, and how much, your coworkers need to know.
If you want to keep to a minimum the amount of information you share, consider disclosing only the following:
- Your diagnosis
- An explanation, in layman's terms, of what your diagnosis means
- Expected course of treatment
- Expected leave of absences or sick days, if any
Tips on What to Tell
- Reveal only as much as you want to, in a straightforward manner. People will take their cues based on how you present yourself.
- Prepare ahead of time what information you want to share.
- If you're telling just one or two colleagues, create a comfortable, private environment in which to tell them.
- Give them a chance to ask some questions, if you feel comfortable doing so. As you know only too well, some people have no experience with cancer and don't know what you're facing.
- Explain to your confidants what to expect in terms of future absences, and let them know there may be times when your mood and productivity will be affected. Don't be afraid to ask if you can rely on them for help. It's better to help them prepare beforehand for handling a few of your duties than to sprint it on them at the last minute.
- Consider letting people know if you expect your appearance to change -- for example, hair loss or changes in your skin or weight. Explain to them that it's part of the process of getting better.
- When telling your supervisor, tread lightly when mentioning your legal rights; some supervisors might feel threatened by the topic.
- You may want to reassure your coworkers that you're not disappearing on them. Let them know that you're still an integral part of the team and that you want to be kept in the loop.
Most importantly, remember that this will be a fluid experience and what you know about your situation may change as you go through treatment. By sharing your diagnosis, you're opening up an ongoing conversation with your manager and/or coworkers; this enables you to discuss things as they evolve and adjust your plan of action accordingly.
Also, it's worth noting that you may find yourself in the position of having to educate your supervisor, because most people haven't experienced this type of situation before or been trained on how to handle it.