8 Things Not to Say to Someone with Cancer
I’ve deliberated for some time as to whether to write this post or not because whilst I think there are some things not to say to someone with cancer, I’m only talking about what I don’t want to hear.
I recently wrote a post on how to talk to someone with cancer and if you know anyone who has recently been diagnosed, you might find that helpful.
Here goes though, here are the 8 things not to say to someone with cancer – or not to me please :)
1. I’m so sorry
I’ll start with the most common phrase used and I’ll hold my hands up and say that I’m sure to have used this myself many times before my own cancer diagnosis.
Think about it though from my perspective and how it comes across – it isn’t a particularly positive or helpful thing to say in isolation. To me is sounds like “I’m sooooooooo sooooorrrrrrryyyyyyy”. The End.
And I think, oh great, thanks. You’ve clearly written me off then, I’ll start digging my own grave now!
Of course I know it is never intended to come across this way but it might sound just a little dismissive to whoever is on the receiving end.
2. My Aunty/Great Grandmother/Neighbour’s Sister’s Dog had cancer and they died.
Seriously? Seriously?! I mean, thanks a bloody lot. We can all think of someone who has died of cancer and whilst I’m terribly sorry for your loss I do not want to hear this!
You’d be surprised at how many people say this – or I certainly am.
3. You’ll be ok, they’re coming up with new cures every day!
Now I like your intentions here, you’re being positive, you’re trying to come up with something uplifting but just bear in mind that the new medical breakthrough you’re reading about today is highly unlikely to be of benefit to me. In fact, it probably has decades, or at least years, of trials and testing in front of it before the general public get a pop at it so really, it isn’t going to save my life.
It goes without saying I know but YAY for future people diagnosed, they will benefit. Just not me unfortunately unless I’m lucky enough to have access to a trial.
4. It’s only hair! (when it falls out after chemo)
Bugger right off. It is NOT only hair – it’s my hair. Next person who says this gets a punch in the balls.
5. My Aunty/Great Grandmother/Neighbour’s Sister’s Dog had chemo and they didn’t have your symptoms.
Um, is it a competition? Am I not stacking up against those valiant and brave chemo heroes who went before me?
Lucky them! I would love to be Super Mim who sailed through chemo and thought it a walk in the park. No such luck and that’s fine, I know I’m not the only one who struggles with it.
Let’s not make it competitive though, hey?
6. You need to be positive!
Oh right, thanks for telling me to be positive! Oh without you to TELL me to be positive, I suppose I would have been, what exactly? Negative? Shut up.
Of course I’m going to be positive but let me tell you that 75% of the time I’m pretending to be positive. Fake it til you make it and all that.
I’m a pretty positive person but even I have my limits and cancer has it’s moments of being anything but positive and happy. I’m trying though, I’m getting through it.
I dooo like it when people commend me for already being positive though – this is lovely positive reinforcement of my, um, positivity.
7. You have to stay alive for your kids
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told this. What do they think I’m doing, planning my own burial? Ignoring the fact that I have two tiny children who need their mother to be around for at least another hundred years?
My children are in the forefront of my mind every second of every day, especially since my diagnosis. I don’t need you to tell me to stay alive for them, I’m desperately doing that already. Don’t give me any more reason to feel guilty for rocking my family’s world.
I can forgive all of the above points for the simple fact that every single time I’ve been told one of them, it’s come with love and from someone who is desperately trying to find the right words to say to me.
It takes guts to talk to someone with cancer, whether they’re your partner, best friend, Mum, colleague or stranger you’ve just met. You’re scared that what you’re going to say isn’t going to be right or is going to upset them. You don’t want to be too dismissive or too emotional.
You don’t want to say someone so wrong it ends up in a post like this one! Sorry sorry :)
BUT you’ve said something and whether it helped or not, I’m grateful to you for trying to say the right thing and for being there for me.
What I can’t really forgive is silence. Those people who stay away from you, I suppose until the cancer is over and we can all pretend everything’s ok again.
The very worst thing you can say to someone with cancer is nothing at all.
And now this is starting to sound like a Ronan Keating ballad.
Thanks for allowing me to, well have a bit of a rant really. Thank you to everyone who has sent me well wishes and messages of support.
If you’ve said one of the phrases above to me or someone else with cancer, don’t feel bad, we know it was meant with love.
If you are stuck for what to say to someone you know with cancer, you might find this post helpful.