Things Not To Say to someone with a history of cancer treatment
There is nothing more devastating then to hear the words "you've got cancer"and "You have to have chemo/radiation". Some treatments involve chemo administered via IV or pills. Some treatments are administered via radiation. Most treatments combine both.
- You'll be fine! If you have never experienced sitting or lying there while chemo is administered in your body, you have no clue what it feels like. You may think it is helping. Chances are, you are not helping.....you are actually hurting. This gives a signal to the survivor that their feelings are nothing. Nothing could be further than the truth. Having chemo or radiation is a very big deal. Don't down play it.
- Aww my love one died of cancer. Or, my love one was so very sick with cancer. We, as cancer patients need love and support. Sharing that information about the death of a love one is not only inappropriate, but is extremely hurtful. The advancements of treatments are so much better than it was years ago. Not everyone who goes through treatment get sick. I never did. You may think you are helping, but you are not. We deal with the cancer diagnosis every day of our lives. Many of us are concerned about our mortality as a result of this disease and/or its treatments. So, the mention of your love one's death is like putting gasoline to fire. Stop it.
- But, you look good! You don't look like you have cancer. If I hear this one more time, I think I'm going to scream! We can't be cute and be in treatment? Please give me a break. I personally have been in treatment since 2007. Cancer survivors have good days and bad days. Fatigue can hit at any time. When it does, we have to just stop whatever is going on and get the proper rest. Think before you speak.
- I didn't call because I didn't want to wake you. Avoiding your co-worker, friend, or love one does not help with his/her recovery. So, make an effort by calling. Ask if this is a good time and if not, when is the best time of day to call. Many cancer survivors with a history of treatment are not sleeping 24/7. Pick up the phone to let them know you are thinking of them. If you don't know what to say.....say just that "I don't know what to really say, but I wanted to call to say I am thinking/praying for you". Make the call!
- I just can't handle that you have cancer! You can't handle it??? Really? So, when did this become about you??? How do you think the cancer survivor is feeling about the news? When did this become about you? Put on your big boy/girls pants and deal! If the survivor can do it, guess what??? You can too. Think about the cancer survivor. You can't see it, but they are scared to and of death! Get a grip and be there for the survivor. He or she needs you. Don't ignore him or her.
- I'll come over when you are finished your treatments. What happens if you never make it? Or sadly if the survivor doesn't? For some, there are tomorrows. You could have brighten someone's day, but your fear got the best of you. Don't let fear overtake you. Make a visit.
- Come over to pick up a plate. I've cooked a great meal. Don't ask someone who has just undergone treatment to come to your house to pick up a meal. After spending hours sometimes days of chemo and/or radiation, the survivor does not have the energy to drive to you. Both of these treatments can be quite draining. Most of the time, it takes so much out of him/her. Getting to the couch or bed is all that's in view once he/she is released from the medical facility. You GO to them! They are the ones who need help, not you.
- I don't know how to help. One will never know anything unless one asks. Chances are, you can help with something. Here are some ideas: making phone calls, fixing a cup of tea, mowing the lawn, housekeeping, organizing a shelf or closet. There are no cost to you to do these free tasks. There is generally something that can be done. Call and ask "how can I help". Using those words will signal the survivor you really want to help and just need to know how. Helping doesn't come easy for most. Asking for help is even harder.