February 5, 2010

what to say?

lately, there's been a lot of talk about 'things not to say to a cancer patient' on the forums.... it's a tough topic, because from the outside of the cancer world, it's hard to want to be there, and be the most supportive person you can be but to not always know how...and from the inside of the cancer world, it's hard to tell people what we're dealing with and how we want to be supported. really, there's no easy solution, and i can say from where i'm standing, in the midst of treatment, that we cancer warriors are a tough crowd. we want everyone to understand us, but very few people do...and that's a hard thing to accept. so, instead of ranting about how people don't 'get us', i'm going to do my best to help those of you outside the cancer world understand what we mean. here are the three things i hear most that are the hardest to respond to...

"at least you got a good cancer"
first of all, getting any cancer sucks. it doesn't matter what kind - you'd know exactly what i mean if you ever had to sit there and listen to a doctor tell you that you had cancer. and, as good as this cancer is, i still need chemotherapy and radiation. yes, i am very happy with the high cure rate, but i can assure you, it's no walk in the park to earn that prognosis - you aren't just handed it when you're diagnosed with the hodge...you have to work hard for it. and as good as this cancer is, people die from it. in fact, the first time i ever heard about this cancer was when i was ten...and a classmate died from hodgkin's disease. so, join me in feeling fortunate that i have a cancer that usually responds well to treatment, and then join me in hoping that statistics are on my side. but, please, don't tell me i got the good kind of cancer.

"you're so strong, i couldn't do what you do"
until you've been diagnosed with cancer, you have no idea what you can do. the very moment a doctor tells you that you have cancer, everything changes. it's not about strength, it's about something deep inside all of us...and we all have it. i didn't think i had it, and then i realized the choices were, quite literally, 'do or die'. that doesn't make me strong, it makes me the same as every one of you. if someone told you that you could run away or stand still and get shot, what would you do? run? that's what i would do, too. i can almost guarentee i'm no stronger than anyone else, i've just been forced to uncover what i have inside me to get through this. if you had to do it, you would, too, and you'd understand exactly what i mean.

"how do you feel?"
this is a tricky one, because i know you mean well and really do care how i'm feeling. here's the problem...i probably won't really tell you how i'm feeling. why? because lots of times when you ask i feel miserable, and i refuse to always tell everyone how terrible i feel. the only people who need to hear how i feel are my doctors and nurses...the rest of you will be spared the less than pleasant details of dealing with the side effects of cancer treatment. so, instead of asking me how i feel, if you really want to know how things are going, ask about what's going on in my life.... that's the other thing, i do have a life aside from the cancer business, and there are lots of exciting things that happen in that life that have nothing to do with cancer. i think it's hard for people to not focus on the cancer, but trust me, i really don't want to focus on it and it helps if you don't, either.


  1. Agreed! I hope you don't mind if I link this in a post on my blog. You've said it all very well.