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If sharing the journey is a priority, then be clear about what you need from those you tell, she suggests. An offer of dinner, for instance, doesn’t have to mean a night of chitchat with the person who brought it. Do you need jokes to keep you laughing or a shoulder for crying?

“People sometimes want to pray for you. If they do, you can tell them what you’re hoping for,” she said. “If I’m looking for a cure, that. Maybe I’m just hoping for a day free of pain. Maybe I’m looking for the strength and courage to face what is ahead for me. Let me tell you what I want.”

For others, talking about their illness is the last thing they want to do.

“It makes them feel worse,” Wasserman said. “It’s, `I don’t want to think of myself as a cancer patient. I don’t want to be talking about my aches and pains.’ Sometimes people will tell and then really regret it, because they’re being treated differently.”

Taking control of the conversation is important, she said.

“Say, `Look, I don’t want you to treat me like I’m dying, or I don’t want you to treat me like I’m pathetic,’” Wasserman said. “That’s one reason why a lot of people don’t tell. Their skin cringes to have people talk to them like that.”

Jessica Aguirre, the mother of two young boys in Green Acres, Fla., was 29 when diagnosed with breast cancer nearly two years ago. Her bad news came just three days before she received a promotion to manager of the cell phone store where she is now on medical leave, after the cancer spread to her brain.

“I just decided to be completely open with everything and everyone at work,” she said. “I just thought, you know what, maybe having this can help somebody else. I think that if you do keep it to yourself it will eat you up inside.”

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Follow Leanne Italie on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/litalie