When You Find Out You Have Cancer…
I would prepare yourself for when people say (what I think) are very stupid things. The most common comment being “I knew someone who had cancer and died”, seriously, who are you helping when you say that? There is also my personal favourite, “just think positively and you’ll be fine”. Don’t get me wrong, positivity is great and positively encouraged, but cancer is a little more complicated than that. Cancer is not purely a mental test with your survival the prize. Nevertheless, people will tell you to be positive, A LOT!
You may also find that you end up consoling the person you have just told rather than the other way around. Personally didn’t mind this, I actually started becoming quite offended if people didn’t need consoling – don’t they care? Just kidding, obviously they did, presumably they were holding it together so as not to upset me – right? But seriously, I can certainly see how upsetting it could be if you are struggling with your own emotions without taking on someone else’s crushed feelings.
Generally, people love to compare your cancer to someone else they know who had cancer. Sometimes I would be told the strangest things like “at least they caught it early”, no they didn’t? Why assume that? Some people make all sorts of assumptions based on a previous experience they’ve had with someone else. This used to drive me mad and annoyingly it’s not just with diagnosis, it will be with every stage of your cancer care.
What Can You Do?
Whatever someone’s reaction, remember that most people are trying their best, they are not trying to annoy you, they are probably just at a loss for what to say and feel that they need to say something, anything. If someone does say something that offends or upsets you, remember you are in an emotionally raw place. It would be normal to take things to heart that would usually not be such a big deal to you. This is entirely natural so do not feel bad about it. If someone is comparing your cancer to someone else, you could say, there are so many variations (even within the same cancer) they really aren’t comparable. Where possible try to distance yourself from those comments and if someone is upsetting you, maybe mention that you are trying your best to handle it your way, and get them off the phone!
My Loved One Has Cancer – What Should I Be Saying?
I didn’t want to send all the non-cancer people into a spin on what they should be saying so this would be my advice…
In my opinion, it’s best to follow the lead of the person who has cancer. Be led by how they are feeling and their reactions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, I’m sure they would rather tell you than have you assume. Ask how they are feeling, how they are reacting to the news. Feel free to agree that it is shite and you wish there was something you could say to make it better but you know there isn’t. Ask if there is anything you can do to help and suggest things you could do – make dinner / take the kids to school / drop a text saying, I’m at the shops can I pick anything up for you. Feel free to make suggestions about way’s of handling ideas but leave it as a suggestion not an instruction. If they don’t seem keen, leave it, don’t push what your friend of a friend did down their throat.
I found an influx of offers of help and well-wishes at the beginning and then it tails off (understandably) so my biggest suggestion would be to just let them know that you are still there, thinking about and loving them and ready to respond should they need you.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to dealing with cancer. Treating someone with love and kindness will go a long way.
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