Inspired by an article I read in this months Good Housekeeping magazine and their wonderful Good Health spread on Cancer, and more specifically ‘The Way to Talk About the Big C’. This is such an interesting point when it comes to Cancer for both the person with it and then person they are talking to.
I am the sort of person who likes to talk things over, the more I say it, the easier I can get my thoughts together in my head so when I found out I had cancer, I was happy to call friends & family & let them know what was happening and get to talk it though again and again. For me it felt good to let everyone know & I’m not going to lie, I also enjoyed hearing all of the kind things that everyone said. Having said that, I think anyone with cancer needs to prepare themselves for the weird things people say. The most common one being ‘I knew someone who had that cancer & died’, and my personal favourite ‘just think positively & you’ll be fine’, like that’s all it takes.
Things to avoid saying to someone with Cancer?
- Try and steer away from unsolicited advice. You may know someone who cured themselves by eating beetles but sometimes to the person with cancer it can feel overwhelmed enough without extra things to think about. If they are interested in anything like this, they will ask or find out. You could mention it as a possible option, but never make it sound like it is what they should be doing.
- Think positively. This drove me completely potty. I understand you don’t want your loved one to fall into a pit of depression but you wouldn’t ask someone to think a broken arm fixed. I thought that Good Housekeeping worded this perfectly;
‘Cancer is not a character building test with survival as the prize’.
- But you look fine. The irony is a lot of cancers don’t make you look ill. Generally speaking it’s the chemotherapy that makes you look and feel like you have cancer. Don’t place any importance on how someone looks and it can be difficult when you feel like people aren’t appreciating how you feel because you don’t look sick enough.
- You look awful. Seriously… who wants to hear that….. ever?! 🙂
So what should you say?
That you love them and are here for them. Let them guide you with what they want. Listen, let them talk about their fears, however irrational they may seem to you, sometimes you just need to say them. Make tea and help out wherever you can. Know that if something you say does upset them that it is just an awful time for them and don’t take their reaction to heart.
If you have Cancer, what do you do when someone says something stupid?
Just try & remember, people aren’t saying these things to annoy you, they are saying them because they are probably shocked & feel like they need to say something & they don’t know what to say. You may also find it is you consoling the person you have just told rather than the other way round. I personally didn’t mind this but I can see how it may be upsetting for some people (I actually started getting quite offended if people didn’t need consoling when I told them, didn’t they care?!) Obviously they did, but whatever their reaction, remember most people are trying their best, even if they do get it wrong & you are most likely in a very raw emotional place, taking things to heart that would normally not be a big deal. This, like all your other roller coaster of emotions, is totally natural so don’t feel bad about it.