I have a really good relationship with my parents and sister. I tell them everything. They are fully aware of what is going on with JD and when she first had surgery, back in 2005, my parents canceled their planned holiday in Italy and came over to go camping in England instead to be near us during the surgery. (My parents live in The Netherlands, where I am from). So every time there is a minute new development with JD’s brain, my parents are usually the first to know. That is how they want it. I don’t really worry about what they do with the information I give them. With that, I mean that if they get really scared when I tell them we are due to visit the Oncologist, that is not my business. Not that I don’t care, but I mean, I do not withhold information from them just because they might get upset or take it the wrong way. They are responsible for how they deal with the information I give them. It is not up to me to judge if they are ‘fit’ to hear certain things or not.
JD however has never really been close to her parents. Her father died earlier this year and the relationship with her mother is a complicated one. In her family, the tradition is more: don’t tell unless there is an absolute need. So for example, she would be told after the event that her dad had been in hospital for a few days but that it was all OK now.
It seems JD is now taking the same approach with her mother. I had to almost twist her arm to even get her to tell her mother that the latest MRI showed growth and she has not told her mother that she will see the Oncologist this month. She just told her that she had a follow up appointment to discuss the results of the PET scan.
This is something I don’t understand. Surely it means that if JD needs chemo or radiation, this will be a major shock to her family since they have no idea what is actually going on. JD says: well, we KNOW nothing so it would just upset them to give them half a story. She may have a point there. My family know everything, even though we really know nothing. So they are just as uncertain and scared as we are. But in my mind, this means at least they are prepared if the news is going to be bad. If you don’t know how serious it is, the news that someone might need chemo or radiation will be even harder to take, right?
Sometimes we argue about this. I think communication is absolute key. JD feels she does not want to deal with her mother being upset over something we don’t know much about yet and so prefers to say as little as she can get away with. I can rationally see her point but it feels totally alien to me to keep information from my parents.
So, how do you guys handle this? Is it better to keep people informed, as some kind of running commentary, even if the news is tiny or unclear? Or is it better to just limit the information to things you know for sure so as to not upset people too much? Are we ever responsible for how our loved ones respond to the news? Or do we owe them ‘full disclosure’?