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Things NOT to say to a cancer patient!

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"Your hair will grow back" - well yes, it will, but how about you shave your hair off and then see if "it'll grow back" will make you feel great!  I had posted this blog and one of my friends said "Saying to someone " It'll grow back" is so insensitive, like saying to someone suffering depression " Pull yourself together"....Most of us can remember having a hair do that we hated and yes, it grows out but until it does, it doesn't matter what anyone says, you still feel awful....Well losing your hair must be a million times worse than that, plus everything else you're having to deal with at that time".  I thought that was a really good analogy so, with her permission have reproduced it here.

"I really don't feel well" - this one really makes me laugh!  I've had loads of people who have had a cough or cold say this to me as I've been going through treatment (and they knew I was having chemotherapy)!  Well, actually cancer trumps that one lol.  I don't think you'll ever hear the words "I don't feel well" come out of my mouth again unless I'm REALLY am suffering!

"Be positive" - this is one of my pet hates!  I can't be positive about having cancer BUT I can be brave in my fight to get through the treatment.  I'd prefer it if people said to me "you'll get through it" or "you can do it".

"You're strong" or "You're brave" - I don't mind being told I'm strong (although I know others hate it) because I know I am strong so for me that's probably a true statement!  As for the "You're brave" well, I don't think anybody with cancer is brave.  They've had a disease thrown at them and they've got to get on with it.  Ok, I know some people find that difficult to do but it's nothing to do with bravery.

"Poor woman" - I never go out in public without my wig and make up on now as I'm acutely aware how I look BUT the other day I had to go to my doctors and was suffering with pneumonia so I thought I'd drive there and back and nobody would see me.  However, outside the surgery there were 5 women standing and chatting.  They looked at me and looked away, avoiding eye contact.  I had my beanie on but it's very clear that I don't have hair underneath.  As I walked past, I heard a woman say "poor woman".  I KNOW she was saying it to be kind and it was heartfelt but it made me feel like a victim.  I hated it.  I cried all the way home and it really affected me.  Instead of pity, a smile and eye contact is worth a million words.

"Have you tried [insert some weird or wacky plant or treatment here] as my friend used it and it cured her cancer" - okay, well news flash, if any of these things actually worked then the cure for cancer would have been found!

When cancer treatment has finished "You're cured now" - this is probably one of the worst things you can say!  Once you have cancer, the fear of a recurrence is always there.  The treatment has worked but you can never say you're cured.  Even the medical profession will say you have "no evidence of disease" but they never say you're cured. 

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  1. Michele Trapiche

    Di - thank you for this message. I couldn't agree more with everything you've said and can relate to each and every one of the points you've made. I hope that everything we've both listed will make people stop and think about what they say to somebody who is going through (or gone through) treatment. Lots of people find it so difficult to know what to do and say so let's hope this helps. You have been so honest and shared your experience with others and have been an inspiration to me. Thank you my lovely. Michele xxx

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  2. Di Winstone

    Agree with these Michele but I do feel people just don't know what to say and we can't blame them for that. I related to ALL of these you describe. The worst for me was (and still is) anyone bleeting on about diet or any lifestyle changes. It makes me feel I did something to "get cancer". Or didn't do enough to prevent it. Do I need that guilt? No thank you. I found it very difficult in the early days being stared at when I lost my hair. Im very conscious now of not looking too long at anyone who "looks different". If I had a pound for everytime I was told "you have a lovely shaped head"...... This was sweet the first few times but quickly became very annoying!! Finally, hearing someone say "my mother in law was fine going through chemo" when you are struggling massively is something you can do without hearing. Did that person have a large house and family to look after? Did they have to carry on working full time? Do they react to drugs better than you? No 2 people are the exact same, there can be similarities but each individual is just that....individual. Sorry, last and final one after already saying finally. Going for test results and people saying you be just fine! Unless they have a crystal ball they have no idea what news lies ahead and how this could change your life. Therefore a little compassion and a hug would be better to feel comforted before receiving more news.

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