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View Poll Results: Is it acceptable to keep an illness a secret from family and friends?
Yes 37 59.68%
No 25 40.32%
Voters: 62. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 11-01-2012, 07:42 AM   #1
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Default Keeping an illness a secret

A recent conversation I had with a friend really has me wondering how others feel on this particular subject. If you become moderately to severely ill, is it acceptable to keep your illness a secret from family and friends?

For example, you've been diagnosed with a form of cancer. You decide that you'd prefer not to burden others with the knowledge of your illness unless it becomes necessary to tell them because your ability to hide it is impossible or your mortality is in question. Is this an unacceptable thing to do? Is it disrespectful to your family and friends to keep this knowledge from them? Is it within the bounds of acceptability because it is your body and your health?

I'd be interested to hear any thoughts you have on the subject.

PS...Yes, I am aware there are only two options on the poll. Its important to me and my SCS research that folks pick one answer that best matches their feelings. I realize that some might have more conditions on when the secret might be acceptable, but basically I'm just wondering if everyone thinks family and close friends have a right to know our health business simply because they love us.
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Old 11-01-2012, 08:15 AM   #2
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I had to go with "No", just based on my own situation. My family has a horrible tendency to run wild with rumors because they are somehow afraid of offending someone by asking them a question directly or something. So when I was diagnosed with MS, I made sure I personally told people that I had it, that I was taking care of myself, AND told them to come to me directly with any questions or fears rather than going to the internet or, worse yet, my mother. I also think too many people "hide" a disease like MS until or unless they have noticeable problems, which can make it really frightening for people who are newly diagnosed and are only aware of people who have it that are wheelchair bound or have other severe problems. I had a distant cousin who was diagnosed with it that killed himself because he thought he was going to die anyway. I'm "fine" and I am certain I am not going to die an early death because of this disease and I think my family is less concerned about it because they aren't feeding off of rumors and horror stories. It's much easier for me to be open than to hide it.

If it were cancer, I'm not sure how I would handle it. Probably the same way. It's hard enough to deal with a disease, I don't need to add the stress of keeping secrets too it!
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Old 11-01-2012, 02:08 PM   #3
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I voted yes. My body, My business and nobody elses.
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Old 11-01-2012, 04:42 PM   #4
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I voted no, it's not acceptable. Now that doesn't mean EVERY family member needs to know but I could not see withholding this information from my husband, my parents, or my sister to say the least. I would be devastated if such information were kept from me by a loved one and would not want to do the same to them.
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Old 11-01-2012, 05:07 PM   #5
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I voted no. I agree with Novell, I would be devastated if my family member hid information from me. But I did wait to tell my children, parents, sisters and in-laws that I had breast cancer until I had a positive test because sometimes biopsies are negative. Also, recently my dad told us about a medical condition and my sisters were better able to help my mother care for him since we were made aware of it. Great question, in my opinion. Jeanne
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Old 11-01-2012, 06:05 PM   #6
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Another no vote from me. I admit I waited until I was diagnosed before sharing with my children, parents and sibling, like jeannemiehrman did. I didn't see the need to worry everyone if I got back a negative biopsy. I felt everyone deserved to know, and it also affected my sister in her need to come take over some of the care I was giving my elderly parents, my parents needed to know why I wasn't always available, and my children needed to know, well because I'm their mom. I'd be furious if my immediate family keep me out of the loop with a life changing illness. It affects the whole family, not just the one with the illness. just my 2cents.
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Old 11-01-2012, 08:04 PM   #7
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I voted yes. not because that's been my own behavior...when I was diagnosed with MS several years ago we told immediate family members who then spread the word (like wildfire) throughout the family.

However, I fully support an individual's right to make their own decision on disclosure. Let's face it, it can be very, very difficult to deal with a bad diagnosis, and if someone needs to cocoon themselves for however long it takes to deal with it, that's just fine.

Family members may not be happy when they do eventually find out about it, but that's not the ill person's responsibility. Whatever works for the patient is correct.
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Old 11-02-2012, 05:28 AM   #8
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Thanks for the responses, ladies. I appreciate the input.

For me, I personally think that its my own body and if I want to keep my illness a secret then its within my right. I don't owe anyone knowledge about my personal business. (NOt saying anyone here said that. It was just brought up in the conversation with my friend.) I would not keep it a secret from my husband, but I wouldn't tell my children, siblings, in laws or father unless I had to do so.
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Old 11-02-2012, 05:42 AM   #9
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I would tell my husband only. I would not want my kids to worry - even though they are 24 and 25. They have their own familes and don't need extra to worry about.

As far as my brothers and sisters - no.
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Old 11-03-2012, 10:17 PM   #10
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Well, I voted "yes" and have been keeping my PTSD and my experience of child rape a secret from all my family members (accept my husband and I told him the night he proposed to me,) for more than 40 years and I do not feel one bit guilty about it.

Correction, I did tell my husband's sisters and my own sister about the childhood rape (but not the PTSD diagnosis) very recently, only because I felt confident that I could handle a negative reaction from them should I receive it (luckily, they were very supportive!) I did NOT tell any male member of either side of my family and if their wives or anyone else told them, they haven't mentioned it to me.

I will keep the child rape secret from my mom, she is 82 and in frail health and it happened when she put me in day care so she could work because our family needed the extra income. It would devastate her and make her very sad and upset and I see no benefit at all to tell her this late in her life and am completely happy with that decision.

I would do this with any major illness or disease. My husband would be the first to know, I don't think it is healthy to keep secrets from your spouse and he would be very upset if I kept this type a thing secret from him. I would only tell other family members if I absolutely thought that I had to, or should. Most of them would be a no.
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Old 11-04-2012, 01:56 PM   #11
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I voted yes... just because...um, I don't really know. That was just a knee-jerk reaction. Yes, it would affect everyone, but I'm not anyone's caretaker or anything. I would probably not purposefully keep it a secret, but it would probably be VERY unpleasant for me to talk about, so I probably would simply just... not talk about it. Ever.

Laurie, big hugs to you.
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Old 11-04-2012, 04:03 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Novell View Post
I voted no, it's not acceptable. Now that doesn't mean EVERY family member needs to know but I could not see withholding this information from my husband, my parents, or my sister to say the least. I would be devastated if such information were kept from me by a loved one and would not want to do the same to them.


My feelings as well. You don't need to tell every member of your family but certainly the immediate members who may need to deal with your children if you become visibly ill, or worse.


I don't believe it's necessary to tell friends, although some friends may be closer than family members.
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Old 11-04-2012, 04:05 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurie FW View Post
Well, I voted "yes" and have been keeping my PTSD and my experience of child rape a secret from all my family members (accept my husband and I told him the night he proposed to me,) for more than 40 years and I do not feel one bit guilty about it.

Correction, I did tell my husband's sisters and my own sister about the childhood rape (but not the PTSD diagnosis) very recently, only because I felt confident that I could handle a negative reaction from them should I receive it (luckily, they were very supportive!) I did NOT tell any male member of either side of my family and if their wives or anyone else told them, they haven't mentioned it to me.

I will keep the child rape secret from my mom, she is 82 and in frail health and it happened when she put me in day care so she could work because our family needed the extra income. It would devastate her and make her very sad and upset and I see no benefit at all to tell her this late in her life and am completely happy with that decision.

I would do this with any major illness or disease. My husband would be the first to know, I don't think it is healthy to keep secrets from your spouse and he would be very upset if I kept this type a thing secret from him. I would only tell other family members if I absolutely thought that I had to, or should. Most of them would be a no.


Laurie,


Hugs to you!!


I think yours is a bit different situation. This information doesn't necessarily need to be shared.
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Old 11-04-2012, 04:13 PM   #14
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I voted yes. I think it depends on the illness . I would tell my husband . However it saying yes, I just remembered a friend of mine who told me that when he was 21 , he was away at university and unbeknownst to him, his mother got breast cancer and his dad only called him a few days before she died, and he's never quite forgiven his dad for not telling him sooner so that he could have made his own choice to see his mom while she was weller, rather than on her death bed. So - partly I think it depends on the illness.

My mom had cervical cancer when I was 12 - 13 and I knew that. There is no way of hiding when one is going for radiation treatment etc -and I'm also glad that my dad told our family when he discovered that he had a blood cancer and knew he only had about 2 years - at that point I was in my mid forties. Depends on the illness I think.

But if it is psychiatric related, or something personal that will not affect other lives in a major way, I think it's perfectly acceptable to keep it to yourself - and maybe your husband.
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Old 11-05-2012, 04:46 PM   #15
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I voted no. As others have said, I think it depends on what kind of illness. If it's cancer and you're going through chemo and radiation, things about your appearance will change and people will wonder why and the rumors will fly. If it's something like crohn's where you don't really "see" anything wrong then not necessarily. I have a stomach issue called gastroparesis which has caused me to lose a lot of weight. People keep telling me how great I look. Depending on who it is and where we are sometimes I tell the person what the scoop is and sometimes I don't. For most people, them knowing my condition or not isn't going to matter to them. Most of my close friends, family and co-workers know so that if we get together and there's food they know what I can eat. Sometimes you need people to know because you need a support system.
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Old 11-05-2012, 05:59 PM   #16
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It does all depend on your relationship with the people around you. I said no because certain family members (your children) need to know for their own health and prevention of future illness. Young children can sense "bad" and may think they did something bad or may think up something far worse than what is really happening. People will also be so peeved that you haven't allowed them to give you love and support in your time of need. Of course, there are times when it is wise to keep information to yourself. It's not really a yes or no answer.
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Old 11-06-2012, 03:03 AM   #17
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For me, if I tell anyone, I have to tell everyone. If one brother knows, they all have to know. Then, if my family knows, I have to tell DH's family. By that time, they have told people and the entire community knows. I really don't need everyone in my life knowing my business.

From that point, I'd spend my days fielding calls and emails from people who genuinely mean well.

No thanks...I'd rather live my life as normal as possible while being treated. If my illness is going to directly effect the lives of others, then I would consider telling them. Otherwise, its my secret to keep.

ETA: DH and I both have large families. There's no way to share news with 40 people and still keep it "personal". It won't happen.
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Old 11-06-2012, 08:56 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MadgeRPh View Post
Laurie,


Hugs to you!!


I think yours is a bit different situation. This information doesn't necessarily need to be shared.
Thanks so much, Sharon!


And, I agree, mine is a different situation than the OP was really referring to, but I think some people in my family think I should have told them a long, long time ago anyway!
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Old 11-07-2012, 09:01 AM   #19
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I voted no. You only have to tell me
I'm close with my friends and family and we all know if mom knows everyone knows (she called my older brother at work when I was 10 and got my first period ). I'd want the support, the possible information and a place to vent.

A VERY good friend (made over the last three years) kept her breast cancer diagnosis secret as she was fighting and going through treatment. We were all new kindergarten parents and just meeting people and I know she didn't want pity or talk or anything like that. One day I saw her at school and flat out asked her "hey tell me to eff off if you want but do you have?" didn't even need to finish the question she just looked at me and smiled and nodded and we cried for a sec and I think she needed someone outside the worry circle to know.

So wait what was the question?
Yeah personally I'd tell. But what anyone else does is their business. If my mom was ill and didn't tell I'd be furious. I recently found out after the fact about a hospitalization my sister had with a life threatening allergic reaction. It simply ended up that they needed to act quickly and then once things were ok that's when people found out. It was fast! had she been in the hospital more than a day and I didn't know I'd have been pissed.
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Old 11-07-2012, 09:28 AM   #20
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I voted yes. I sure would like to know if a family or friend is ill, but I think it is their personal choice whether they want to share that information. Would I be upset, even hurt if I didn't know? Yep! But I would accept it was their choice.
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Old 11-08-2012, 05:37 PM   #21
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Disclaimer: I did not vote. It depends on the situation.

As you know, my b-i-l was diagnosed with colon cancer two weeks before my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer. My sister chose not to tell either myself or our other sister and had not told their son (he was out of country).

The only reason I found out was because I called to tell her about my husband's illness and she finally told me as explanation why they wouldn't be here when dh had his surgery.

My b-i-l has been a member of our family for over 50 years. In other words, he's our brother, not b-i-l. To not be told of his life-threatening illness hurt, but I also understand why they didn't tell us. They are both very private people.

On the other hand, the support family and friends give a family during extremely stressful times is something ALL of us need. We may think we can handle it alone, but we can't. It's far too easy to fall into deep despair. A card, phone call, an email joke, a meal or a candy tin full of homemade fudge can help lift that despondency.

As for telling children, I think it depends on their age and how debilitating the illness/treatment might be.

Don't turn your back on support from those you love. After all, it truly is the only thing we can take with us.

I don't know if this is your secret or a theoretical illness, but either way,

love and hugs.

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Old 11-09-2012, 06:48 AM   #22
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I sit on the fence on this one. My mother died when I was 12. When I was 9-10 she sat me down, told me that she was sick...told me that she did not know how long she had. She spent the next 3 years teaching my father how to cook, teaching us kids how to do laundry and help take care of the house all on top of being den leader, brownie leader and soccer mom. When the end was close, no one said a thing to me...just came home from school and dad told me she was gone. I still remember to this day that I wished I had been able to give her a kiss goodbye. For that reason, I would want to tell my children at least. The other side of the fence that I lean to is that I know that I am not nearly as strong as my mother was so, realistically, I don't know that I actually COULD if the situation were to arise. Ever since mom died, the family has never been up front with me about illness...I just get a phone call when it's too late to say goodbye and that really chaps me. I guess I am a hypocrite...I want people to tell me but I don't want to have to tell anyone else. Hard question to answer.
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Old 11-17-2012, 05:05 PM   #23
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I didn't vote either. It depends on the illness, the possibility of carrying specific genes that may affect your kids and if you want the help and support of family and friends.

My DH has colon cancer and it runs in his family. Both my DDs then had pre-cancerous poylps removed. I think it saved their lives.

I have breast cancer and our poor kids are also being monitored for that. I had to find out if I was a carrier of the specific gene and if so, of course I would tell them. When one goes through chemo, radiation and surgeries, it is quite difficult to keep it a secret assuming you are close to your family. If not, then don't tell them.

So a yes or no answer to me depends of what the illness, etc. is. I didn't tell anyone that I was raped at age 10....even my mother. She still doesn't know. I only told my DH when the man tracked me down when we lived in another state and said he was now watching my daughters. It was something I had buried many years before. I had my phone tapped and they said the call had to have come from out of state, but it took a few years of therapy to recover. Just in time to bring out my Lupus diagnosis.

Do what you feel is best for you.
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Old 11-18-2012, 03:34 PM   #24
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I voted yes. I just think it depends on each individual person.
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Old 11-19-2012, 12:20 PM   #25
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I voted yes. I would never keep anything serious from my husband. Most family members don't need to know unless it's something pretty bad.
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Old 11-21-2012, 01:45 PM   #26
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i voted yes, we all have a right to privacy,
but, my answer isnt a simple one, lol........

as a parental caregiver, with out of state siblings, i can tell you from experience that it is sometimes better not to tell everything! esp if you have dorks for siblings who think it is funny to add to the news just to scare other siblings, etc etc....it just starts a whole circle of mess!

if it were about me, well i would really only want DH, DS and my very closest friends to know, and those friends are right here on SCS

if MIL knew, she would only use it for daily gossip or to try to fill DH's head with all kinda of junk

i would only tell my mom if i felt she could handle it, and then she would be sworn to secrecy. my siblings could not know unless it truly put my mothers care in jepardy,( not that any of them would be willing to care for her or be there for her if she no longer could live by herself), they would just cause too much stress and mess which in turn would affect mom, which would lead to yet more troubles, you know?
and besides, i am not really close to them anyways and would just plain not want them in my business!

so, i guess it just isnt a simple thing!
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Old 12-02-2012, 12:48 PM   #27
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I say yes too. I'm very open with the people I love so I probably wouldn't keep it a secret, take that back, I kept a personal health secret for almost 14 years now that I think about it. However, my original answer is based upon my grandmothers situation. She was diagnosed with melanoma and was told she had only months to live. She waited to tell her family until after she had already made all the arrangements for her death. She made sure her kids would be taken care of, she arranged and paid for her own funeral, she finalized any last minute issues. She said she wanted to make sure that her last moments with her family were spent doing NOTHING but enjoying her company and that her family's first moments without her were spent realizing that they would make it without her. She knew that they would always miss her, but she wanted them to focus on their mental well-being after her funeral and not any mess that she may have left behind. And while she probably wanted to just lay her head on my grandpa's shoulder and cry, she was strong because that's what she wanted for her family. I think that while others may feel like her secret keeping was selfish considering she only had months, I think it was the most selfless thing she could have ever done to put her family before her when she was going through so much. And I can only hope to be as strong of a woman as she was.
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Old 12-02-2012, 01:22 PM   #28
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However, my original answer is based upon my grandmothers situation. She was diagnosed with melanoma and was told she had only months to live. She waited to tell her family until after she had already made all the arrangements for her death. She made sure her kids would be taken care of, she arranged and paid for her own funeral, she finalized any last minute issues. She said she wanted to make sure that her last moments with her family were spent doing NOTHING but enjoying her company and that her family's first moments without her were spent realizing that they would make it without her. She knew that they would always miss her, but she wanted them to focus on their mental well-being after her funeral and not any mess that she may have left behind. And while she probably wanted to just lay her head on my grandpa's shoulder and cry, she was strong because that's what she wanted for her family. I think that while others may feel like her secret keeping was selfish considering she only had months, I think it was the most selfless thing she could have ever done to put her family before her when she was going through so much. And I can only hope to be as strong of a woman as she was.
WOW!! How admirable!! That is how I'd like to go!!
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Old 12-04-2012, 01:24 PM   #29
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I don't think there is a right or wrong answer, it depends on the people and the situation. What I will say for sure is that don't tell some and not others. When my dad had prostate cancer a few years ago (he is fine now), my dad and stepmom told my half brother and two stepbrothers (who live in the same state as them), but they did not tell me. Guess how I found out, way after the fact? My dad and stepmom still exchange Christmas cards with my ex-inlaws (not sure why, they were never close). In their Christmas card to my ex inlaws they mentioned my dad getting through radiation for the prostate cancer. My ex inlaws mentioned it to my ex who mentioned it to one of our two kids. PROBLEM WAS... by the time the kids repeated that well-traveled message, it had turned into one of my nephews (high school age) had leukemia!!!! I was freaking out. I texted my stepmom and she told me that NO, it was my dad and the prostate cancer. I was LIVID that they would not mention it to me but drop any kind of hint to my EX inlaws! They didn't even have a good reason not to tell me, other than my stepmom said he didn't want to tell anyone but since my one brother lives with them, he would find out, and then he'd probably tell my two other brothers anyway. I said that if you are telling one, then deciding to tell the other two, why not tell me? You can't exclude one kid unless there is a very good reason. I can see reasons why you would not tell me, but NONE of those apply! It just made for a lot of hard feelings that still ahven't really gone away....
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Old 12-04-2012, 04:10 PM   #30
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Totally off subject, but don't you hate when you get a divorce and people in your family that were never close to your ex or in laws all of a sudden get close??? My mom HATED my ex husband unless he would give her money (my mom is a user), like always hated him... now, 2 years after our split they're like best friends, talk all the time... seriously??? WTH???
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Old 12-04-2012, 04:30 PM   #31
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Totally off subject, but don't you hate when you get a divorce and people in your family that were never close to your ex or in laws all of a sudden get close??? My mom HATED my ex husband unless he would give her money (my mom is a user), like always hated him... now, 2 years after our split they're like best friends, talk all the time... seriously??? WTH???
LOL. No kidding. I can TOTALLY relate. What I don't get is WHY it happens. My dad and stepmom probably saw my ex inlaws four times EVER, then they are exchanging Christmas cards?
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Old 12-04-2012, 04:41 PM   #32
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Who knows! It's like they're afraid of the divorce and the loss more than we are!!! I think my mom is trying to keep him around just in case she doesn't like who I end up with, so she can try to weasel him back in my life... but I really don't know!
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Old 12-04-2012, 06:12 PM   #33
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There are so many variables, it was hard to vote.

I think if one is very close to death it would be helpful for others to know. My mom died very suddenly, she was fine or so everyone thought at breakfast, went to her hotel room and died alone. I say this because it would have been so nice to say goodbye and no one got a chance.

Also, if one is seriously ill, they will most likely need help during treatment, in that case it would be impossible to keep it a secret.

But I know of someone who has a disease that is basically dormant. Not many people know about this and they prefer to keep it that way. People can treat you differently if you are sick. This person lives their life to its fullest while keeping a check on the illness. If it becomes active, then they will share due to necessity.

So, I voted that it is okay to keep it quiet because while there are many instances it is best to share there are times when keeping it to ones self allows life to go on normally as long as possible.
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