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Why Did David Bowie and Alan Rickman Keep Their Cancer Diagnoses a Secret?

January 14th, 2016 |

by TeamIHadCancer | Survivor: Breast Cancer    Connect


There is no right or wrong way to handle a cancer diagnosis.

This week the world was surprised by both the diagnoses and the deaths of two beloved artists: David Bowie and Alan Rickman. Seemingly no one in the general public knew that either of these very-public men were diagnosed with cancer, which caused their deaths to hit the public especially hard. As many of us know first-hand, the emotional combination of grief and shock is a lethal one, and it's often one that causes us to ask: "Why?"

Why did they "hide" their diagnoses? Some have speculated that they are secretly private people, despite living under the public eye for decades, and simply wanted to be able to have some part of their life not be revealed to the masses. Others say that in David Bowie's case, mystique was simply a part of his way of life. Perhaps receiving extreme public attention would have distracted from the goal at hand: beating the cancer. Or maybe both of these men didn't want fighting cancer to be part of their story...maybe revealing it to the public would have made it all seem far too real.

We can all make our guesses, but there's no way to know for sure. But what we do know is that these decisions have brought up an important point to be made: every patient has a right to make the choice on whether to be private or public about their diagnosis – and it's an important decision to make.

Regardless of what your choice is, make sure you consider what the implications of your decision are. Sharing the details of your cancer experience with others allows you to seek support from those who truly understand, but it may also subject you to unwanted input from friends, family members and even complete strangers. On the other hand, not sharing the news may allow you to maintain a sense of privacy, but you may also deny yourself the emotional and psychological support that someone would have otherwise offered you.

But there's also a third option: to compromise on both. As a community, we embrace those who wear their diagnoses on their sleeves and provide support for those who seek it, but we also embrace those who want to stay private, quiet, and anonymous about what they're going through. If you don't want to share a photo of yourself on your profile, upload a photo of your favorite animal; if you don't want to use your real name, use it as an opportunity to come up with something creative. Remember that we will never share your information with anyone without your knowledge, and everything you share is safe in our hands. You can still seek the support of a community where it does not matter what your full name is, where you live or any details of your life – all that matters is that you have cancer in common, and you can help each other figure this thing out.

No matter what you decide, never compare the way that someone else handling their diagnosis to the way in which you are coping with your own. There is no right or wrong way to go about this, so make sure you do what makes you comfortable. You may want to stay quiet right now, and then open up in a few months. Or maybe you started out being pubic about it but then decided you didn't want to share quite as much. That's okay too. It's your decision and although cancer makes us feel like we have no control, when it comes to who you want to tell and how, the decision is yours.

So here's a thank you for all types of members of this community: those of you comment on all our posts and engage with our content frequently – thank you for taking the time to tell us how you're feeling. And for those who you who may not "like," "comment," "share," or say anything at all, please know that we know you are out there, and we are grateful for you as well. Whether you have something to say, or you just want to a place to remind you that you aren't alone, you are welcome here.

Rest In Peace David Bowie and Alan Rickman.

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Team I Had Cancer is the group of people behind the scenes, making sure IHadCancer.com is running, and that you're connecting to the people you need to know for the support and information you need while dealing with cancer.

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