Cancer – What To Say

STOP telling us to “Stay Positive”!

Seriously, I am talking to all those of you who when talking to a friend with cancer, tilt your head, pat us on the back or hand and uttered such words as “Just Stay Strong” or “Keep a Positive Outlook”.

You are not helping!

Its infuriating to say the least and impossible to do when your entire body is trying to climb out of your throat and plunge itself headlong into the toilet bowl.

Okay so perhaps I am being a little harsh here. I know people feel uncomfortable around a person with cancer but its better to say nothing, than to utter such useless words of misplaced wisdom. Save them for when treatment is over, when its time for healing and the long journey back begins.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in attitude making all the difference in the world but there is a time and a place. Positive thoughts need to be FELT to be effective and I assure you, there is NO WAY in hell that can happen when you are exhausted, bald, burnt and have poison running through your veins.

So how can you help, what can you say?

Well one of the first things to realise is that the person with cancer, is still the SAME person. We did not suddenly gain another head or get a complete personality makeover (well mostly), we are still the person you knew prior to this event, so treat us as such. We may not be able to go out dancing right now, but talk to us as you would have before we had cancer; tell us the jokes; share your stories; be normal.
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Yes you should acknowledge the situation and if the person wants to talk, be a good listener but don’t let it be the dominant topic of conversation every time you meet.

I know many of you avoid your cancer stricken friend/family member for a variety of reasons. People with Cancer have all had friends/family members who quietly backed away as soon as they heard the diagnosis; mostly it seems because of fear. Fear that the patient may die, fear of what they have to go through, fear of having to look your own mortality in the face. And sadly all to often, fear of not knowing what to say.

I have been on both sides of this situation and I get it! Sometimes its just so overwhelming because this is a person you love and care for but from the patient side of this fence, we just want normality. We want to feel that we are still apart of the human race, we don’t want to be left out of everyday things like normal conversations, any more than we want this damn disease.

So strive to be normal.

Talk of all the things you had in common before – movies, TV, books, cars, friends…what ever was normal for you. Plan your next vacation or trip together, let the person know you EXPECT them to recover, that you EXPECT them to continue to be in your life, that you EXPECT them to get over this bump in the road. This sort of positive affirmation is so much stronger than platitudes uttered in uncomfortable moments.

This is your time to step up and really help another human being in need, so suck it up, get over your awkwardness and be the friend you know you are. Buy the tattoo’s for the bald head, send the humorous ‘thinking of you cards’ but most importantly, talk to your friend normally.

I was very fortunate I had good friends who did this for me and I can assure you, it makes all the difference in the world. I would even go so far as to say, it could be the difference between life and death.

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