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Photo by: Flickr: Heroes & Villains (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Stanley Tucci recently revealed that he had been diagnosed with cancer three years ago. In an interview with Vera Magazine, the actor shared that doctors found a tumor at the base of his tongue. Tucci explained the tumor was “too big to operate” on so he underwent radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Treatments were successful and the illness is unlikely to return, according to Tucci.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 54,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer this year, with nearly 11,000 deaths. Oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers occur most often in the tongue, tonsils, gums, and floor of the mouth.

The actor also shared that his treatment included six months using of a feeding tube and feeling extremely weak and fatigued. The disease proved to be difficult on his family.

“The kids were great, but it was hard for them,” said Tucci. “I could barely make it to the twins’ high school graduation.”

Unfortunately, Tucci is no stranger to cancer. His first wife, Kate Spath-Tucci, died of breast cancer in 2009 at age 47. Watching her go through treatment initially left Tucci reluctant to go through his own.

“I’d vowed I’d never do anything like that,” said Tucci. “Because my first wife died of cancer, and having to watch her go through those treatments for years was horrible. [Cancer] makes you more afraid and less afraid at the same time. I feel much older than I did before I was sick, but you still want to get ahead and get things done.”

Tucci is among many who chose to keep their diagnosis a secret. Even though most cancer patients don’t have celebrity status, they often struggle with the decision to share their diagnosis publicly or even with close friends and family.

Dr. Margarita Bobonis Babilonia, vice chair, Supportive Care Program

Dr. Margarita Bobonis Babilonia, vice chair, Supportive Care Program

“The timing for disclosing a cancer diagnosis is an individualized choice. Such timing can be influenced by the perceived impact on loved ones or meaning or prior memories attached to the disease. Sometimes patients conceal it for fear of losing control or unleashing uncomfortable emotions. Others could be trying to protect young children, a struggling spouse or elderly parents. Fear of losing yourself or your identity to cancer can also influence disclosing the diagnosis,” said Dr. Margarita Bobonis Babilonia, vice chair of the Supportive Care Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. “In the beginning, patients may experience shame, embarrassment or guilt about the disease if there is a belief they may have contributed to becoming ill in any form. Others may experience distress, anxiety, fear, sadness or even anger which could affect everyone.”

While challenging, talking about your diagnosis with your providers or a therapist can help normalize such diverse expressions of emotions and help you focus on what matters most: you. Discussions with loved ones can also help alleviate the emotional and physical burdens and assist you in rallying your support system. Keeping a blog or a diary or sharing information electronically with a selective group can be another option to communicate updates on your journey with those who care about you the most.

“Remind them that you are still you and that it’s OK to just be there for you without saying anything,” Bobonis said. “You can also provide some guidance on if it is OK or not to ask questions.”