The Secret 25% Of Women Keep From Their Loved Ones

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The Secret 25% Of Women Keep From Their Loved Ones

18 percent of men said they would consider doing the same.

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 it to herself until she absolutely couldn't anymore.

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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 it's not 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. Twenty-five percent of women said they would probably keep such bad news to themselves, while 18 percent of men said they would consider doing the same.

When it came to revealing the truth to their partners, 4 percent of women said they would not, and only 1 percent of men would also keep it to themselves. That's a pretty difficult secret to keep and, I imagine, one that would not have anyone's partner grateful that it was kept.

The research also went on to find that 20 percent of people knew someone who had kept a cancer diagnosis to themselves, and over 50 percent said that they would accept someone's decision to keep such a secret.

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

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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."

Macmillan, a cancer charity, also adds that some patients feel guilt, believing that they are the ones who caused the cancer themselves.

"However, in most cases it’s not clear what’s caused someone’s cancer. There is no reason to blame yourself. Although some of your family and friends may find it difficult to talk about your cancer, the best way to overcome this difficulty is often by talking. Even so, it’s not always easy telling family and friends about your illness," she says.

As someone who's never had cancer, I can honestly say I can't fathom 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. 

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Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on October 30, 2014 and was updated with the latest information.