Your treatment management

Discussion guide

Talking to family and friends about your NSCLC can be difficult. You may worry about you or them losing control of feelings or becoming overwhelmed by the situation. You may worry about becoming overwhelmed by the situation, or want to protect close family and friends from becoming upset.

Talking with family and friends can help you to make important decisions, feel more in control, build bonds, and, most importantly, get the support you need. Remember, what you feel comfortable talking about, and who you talk about it with, is up to you. 

To help your conversations, try some of the tips below:

  • Decide whether you’d like to tell people singularly or in groups
  • Choose when and where you’d like the conversation to take place. It may be better to tell family or friends in a private space. However, there is no right or wrong way
  • Prepare for different reactions. People do not always react in the way you’d expect them to. If their reaction is different from what you had anticipated, remember it does not mean they don’t care; it’s just their way of coping 
  • Consider what you want to say to people, and what you’d rather not discuss. If a topic crops up that you find too sensitive, don’t be afraid to ask for a change of subject
  • Be prepared for common questions, such as, “Are you okay?” Asking whether you’re alright may seem like a stupid question but remember this only means that your family member or friend has your emotional well-being in mind. If you feel comfortable to share your feelings, it may be better to talk about just a few things you are feeling to begin with, and leave talking about others for your next chat. This can help keep the conversation from becoming overwhelming
  • Think about what support you need from each person in your life and be clear with your request(s). You may want to ask one person to help with day-to-day tasks and another to simply listen
  • Give thought to whether you’d like to work with external sources, such as a counsellor or social worker, to get extra support

It can be especially difficult to let your children, or grandchildren, know about your cancer diagnosis, and you may consider not sharing the news with them. However, children can usually sense something is going on, and being open and honest can help them avoid misinterpreting the situation. Letting them know will also mean that they can ask any questions and help them cope better. Below are some tips for telling children:

  • Think about whether you want to tell them on their own, or with another parent or adult
  • Prepare what you’re going to tell them and consider any questions they’re likely to ask
  • Keep it simple
  • Find out what they know and put right any misunderstandings
  • If you have young children, it might be good to inform other parents, nursery staff, or teachers of the situation. You may also want to get advice from a paediatrician, social worker, or psychologist before telling them
  • Know that if they ask you any particularly difficult questions, it’s fine to say you don’t know
  • If you have older children that want to help, let them know the ways in which they can offer their support

Talking to your employer about your diagnosis may seem scary for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s important to know that your job is secure and that you are protected against discrimination by law, so this should not be a concern.

Talking to your employer will help them to support you. They can take action and allow you to take time off when necessary. They can also tell you about your company’s sick pay procedures. Some tips for talking to employers are highlighted below:

  • Plan the conversation beforehand, so you can have a private space with enough time for an in-depth discussion. You may also want to write down any key points you want to say/any questions you want to ask 
  • If you feel nervous, think about whether you’d like to take someone into the meeting with you. This could be a friend or a union representative
  • Be realistic when talking about what you’ll need/what time you’ll need off. It may be good to take a list of any changes to your role or schedule you feel would help, e.g., you may want to amend working hours to avoid rush hour, etc. 
  • Decide whether you’d like your employer to share the news with your colleagues, or whether you’d like to tell them. Remember that close colleagues will be willing to support you 
  • Get in touch with your HR department – they will be able to help you plan and discuss any changes with your employer 
  • Keep a note of any communication with your manager(s) and HR department

For more information about speaking to your employer and co-workers about your diagnosis, click here

Sometimes, you may find it helpful talking with someone you don’t know. This may be because you don’t have to worry about protecting or upsetting loved ones, or because you simply need reassurance from an outside perspective. It may also be beneficial to talk to somebody who knows what you are going through. 

Remember that you are never alone, and that there are people out there who are more than willing to help. 

You may want to try:

  • Calling a support line
  • Joining a support group or online community
  • Having talking therapy

Click on one of the options below to learn more 

Non-small cell lung cancer

  1. Macmillan Cancer Support. Explaining cancer to children and teenagers. 2016. Available from Last accessed July 2021.
  2. Macmillan Cancer Support. Talking to your employer. 2021. Last accessed July 2021.