“Is it terminal?”
“What’s your prognosis?”
“It could be worse, you know.”
“Everything happens for a reason.”
“It’s all part of a larger plan.”
“You’re only given what you can handle.”
“All you need to do is think positive.”
“Half the battle is the mindset. Be determined to beat cancer and you will.”
“Now that you’ve been through this you’re due for some good things to happen.”
“I’m sure it’s fine/I’m sure it’s nothing.”
“Well, you’ve been needing a vacation for a while and now [during chemo] you get to lie around and read books all day. What could be better?”
“Well, do they think [the chemo] is going to do any good?”
“At least it’s not on your face where everyone could see the scars, besides you don’t really need your breasts anyway.”
A new-agey friend asked me if I had been really angry about anything 7 years before my diagnosis that I had repressed. (What had I done to cause my DCIS?)
I was advised to write a letter to my husband detailing how much I loved him so he could have something when I died. [My husband] was standing next to me as I was being given this little chestnut.
One said to me the day after my malignant melanoma diagnosis: “Maybe this will help you evaluate all the things you need to change in your life.”
Last year I had part of my cervix removed surgically for PRE-cancerous cell growth. I was at home recovering from surgery and still had days to await the results of whether or not I had clear margins, etc. Those days that drag on and you just wonder and hope. My mother in law came over with dinner (nice) and then proceeded to stand there and tell me about every person she knew with cancer, how they died, and how their families went on.
When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was a wreck. My (now ex) husband got tired of it really fast and made a rule to confine my sadness to one day per week: “you are only allowed to cry about this on Fridays.” If I felt like I absolutely had to cry Sat-Thur, I had to do it in private.
The worst thing said to me was right before I was to have a new lump checked out. I was a 7 yr breast cancer survivor at the time, with 3 children ranging from 14-8 yrs old. When I told a pastor’s wife I was worried about the lump, but was most worried about my children if I got bad news, she responded, “oh, they will get over it. You’d be surprised how quickly. I know I got over my dad dying in a year, and I was about their age.”
“Gosh, I thought chemo was supposed to make you lose weight”
Nearly every person I told about my mother’s death felt the need to tell me about some relative of theirs that had passed away and how awful their death was.
The very stupidest thing was said to me recently, a few months after treatment ended for a recurrrence. I was out to eat with my youngest son, now 16, and ran into an acquaintance. She said she’d given it a lot of thought, and wanted me to know that there were “perks” to dying at early age, in case I did. I’m 47. (and feeling fine by the way, and had just told her so.) But she proceeded to tell me 3 of “the perks” if I were to die early. One “perk” was that I wouldnt be the grieving spouse, another was that i had already parented “through the fun years” and wouldn’t have to see my kids make bad life choices, and the other one….oh, I wouldn’t have the aches n pains that came with old age like she was experiencing. She was “sincere” and had “thought about it,” and is a nurse!! Just blew my mind.
1. Random stranger on the street: Do you have cancer? Me: Yes. RS: How long do you have? Me: -
2. On telling peripheral people (e.g. hairdresser, or friend of a friend) of my diagnosis, they proceed to tell you that their uncle/cousin/friend’s mother had cancer and then that they died. I guess they are trying to make a connection and it’s the first thing that pops into their head, but I really did not want to hear about death at that time.
3. An email from a friend of a friend (a homeopath) telling me that breast cancer is caused my a negative relationship with your own mother. This is definitely not the case!
4. People asking me if I knew how I got my cancer (and then offering me something to read about some “natural” therapy they have heard about or are selling).
5. I fully got sick of hearing the words “positive” and “strong”; so much so that I banned my family and friends from saying them.
“People choose their sicknesses. He chose to have cancer by not managing his negative energy and he chose to die by not fighting.”
Someone I know has pancreatic cancer. She didn’t suffer too many adverse effects throughout chemo which was fortunate for her. Her daughter, who knows I went through chemo all a year earlier, made a comment that her mother must have a particularly strong constitution because she didn’t have trouble with side effects. Ya, unlike like the rest of us weak wussies who who were knocked out by chemo! I knew that she was grasping at any tiny sign that her mom might experience a full recovery so I kept my mouth shut.
So what DO you say? A post with suggestions for what to say/do appears here: “What to say to someone with cancer/how to be a friend to someone with a serious illness.”