The Secret 25% Of Women Would Keep From Their Loved Ones

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woman keeping a secret from her friend
Heartbreak

When my Auntie Gin died from cancer, it was all so abrupt. She broke the news to us in the spring that she was sick, and by the summer she was gone.

What we'd find out later on was that she'd been sick for quite a while, but knowing it was terminal and there was nothing to be done, she kept that information to herself until she absolutely couldn't anymore.

As someone who can't keep anything to herself, I found her decision strange. Not just because my life is an open book, but I would think she would want to be comforted and supported by loved ones before she passed away.

She wasn't married, didn't have children, and both her parents were long gone. Her friends were her family; she was not my blood aunt, but she was more of an aunt than any blood aunt I ever had.

Knowing that she was living with such a secret for well over a year was heartbreaking, but as it turns out, what she did isn't exactly uncommon, either.

A 2014 poll found that more people than you'd think would, if they found out they had cancer, keep it to themselves.

Of the 1115 adults in the UK diagnosed with cancer and surveyed by YouGov on behalf of Bupa, an international health insurance and healthcare group, 25% of women said they considered keeping their diagnosis to themselves, while 18% of men said they did the same.

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When it came to revealing the truth to their partners, only 4% of women said they would not, and just 1% of men believe they would also keep their diagnosis to themselves.

Cancer is a pretty difficult secret to keep and, I imagine, one that would leave have anyone's partner feeling grateful that it was kept once they inevitably found out.

The research also went on to indicate that 18% of people say they knew someone who had kept a cancer diagnosis to themselves, with over 50% of participants saying they would respect someone's decision to keep such a secret and 25% saying they would be shocked.

Why would people keep a cancer diagnosis to themselves?

The reasons for people not wanting to share the dreadful news varied from wanting to maintain a normal life to not being too keen on receiving sympathy or special treatment to feeling as though they just wanted to handle it on their own.

Cancer Healthcare Manager at Bupa, Jayne Molyneux, explains, "Every patient reacts differently to their cancer diagnosis. We are finding more patients choosing to keep their diagnosis to themselves and dealing with treatment on their own, or until they have come to terms with it."

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Macmillan Cancer Support, a UK-based non-profit, highlights the fact that some patients feel guilt, believing that they are the ones who caused the cancer themselves.

A booklet they've published to help those diagnosed with cancer deal with the emotional fallout explains:

"You might feel guilty and blame yourself (or someone else) for getting cancer. This may be because we often feel better if we know why something has happened. In most cases it’s impossible to know exactly what has caused a person’s cancer, so there’s no reason for you to feel that anyone is to blame. Cancer isn’t a punishment for something you have done."

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As someone who's never had cancer, I can honestly say I can't fathom what it would be like to absorb the shock of such news.

But after having watched people I love die from it, I can say even more so that I can't even begin to comprehend how someone would want to be alone in the knowledge and pain of it.

Of course, it's one's own personal choice to reveal such information, but I would think in such a time that there would be an absolute need for human support, both physical and emotional.

But I don't know. I've never been in that place to have to decide, nor do I ever hope to be.

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Amanda Chatel is a writer who divides her time between NYC and Paris. She's a regular contributor to Bustle and Glamour, with bylines at Harper's Bazaar, The Atlantic, Forbes, Livingly, Mic, The Bolde, Huffington Post and others.