No, no I don’t. Don’t get me wrong, people mean well, really they do, when they tell you to be positive. They say things like “its proven that your attitude matters” “stay positive in this fight” , “You have to stay positive” . But here is the hard truth of cancer- being positive in the face of treatment and survival doesn’t always happen. Prior to my diagnosis I was that person. You know, wake up chipper, happy, hey its a new day. I told people the same thing- stay positive, spread positivity, you get what you put out there blah blah blah lol. Ok, I am not hating on myself, its just that things change.
I still am positive. If I weren’t, I couldn’t get out of bed everyday. Face the mirror. Go out in public (now there’s a blog post to come!!!). Its just that all of a sudden you get so sick and fucking tired of the fight. Fatigue leaves you vulnerable. The simplest thing is a huge task. Brushing your teeth- your gums hurt. Going to the restroom- uhm what is going on down there? Eating- now that’s a blog post in of itself. Its a freaking nightmare. One day you can eat something, the next, dude forget it. Getting dressed requires so much energy just like showering. That thing where you are supposed to stand but end up sitting because you are out of breath, dizzy and just wiped out. So, its happened. Sitting in the tub, wondering how I will get out….and the tears come. Hot, salty, self pitying, angry, I hate the world, can I just curl up and die tears. It usually comes when the side effects have stacked one on top of another. When my reserves are at their lowest. I want to yell FUCK YOU CANCER WHY ME??? This is NOT what my life is supposed to be now. I am supposed to be enjoying my adult children, waiting for grandchildren, exploring life and the world with my other half. Instead my life has become a regimen of appointments, treatments, medications, side effects and battling rare, aggressive, nasty cancer. Well fuck you too. So I cry. I hate everything and everyone. Then eventually the sobs subside as I tell myself to just breath. That despite the prognosis of this double whammy cancer, I am doing this to give myself as much time as I can to spend with my kids, to wait for my grandchildren, to do the things I have put off in life.
So we know you mean well when you tell us to be positive. Or that your “Fill in the blank” beat cancer and she’s alive and well today. Or “my friend juiced and got rid of cancer naturally”….Rather than just rant at you, here is a list of “Cancer Discussion Do’s and Don’ts that I found in my Cure Today magazine. Because to quote my honey, “you really don’t know what its like until its you”.
- Offer unsolicited advise, like telling the person to juice
- Tell the patient he/she should be more positive, or tell them how to feel
- Say everything is going to be okay, because it might not be
- Make nosey inquires, such as how the person got cancer or whether he/she smoked
- Compare a cancer to someone else’s or tell cancer horror stories
- Say “I know how you feel.” Instead, ask, “Tell me how you feel”
- Say “God only gives you what you can handle” or “Everything happens for a reason”
- Say “Its only a breast” or “Its not big deal”
- Say “Let me know if I can do anything” Instead, ASK- “How can I help?”
- Try to change the subject, cut the person off or offer platitudes if the patient wants to talk about dying.
- After treatment ends don’t disappear and stop all support. Just because the physical symptoms are gone, doesn’t mean the emotional toll of a cancer diagnosis vanishes.
- Pry into the details of someone’s treatment unless they want to share
- Offer to help and them bail at the last minute.
- If you want to share promising research, let the person know that you’ve read about new treatments for their cancer and, if they’re interested, you’ll gladly forward them the information.
- Tell your loved one that you’ll be there to help navigate the cancer treatment process but wont do anything if he/she doesn’t want you to.
- Be there for the person. I CANT EXPRESS THIS ENOUGH. I have not heard from so many people.
- Offer specific ways you’re willing to help, such as running errands, delivering food, bringing the patients children to a movie or driving the person to treatment.
- Be a friend, not a cheerleader
- Let the patient lead the conversation, even if they want to talk about death.
- Learn the difference between the words “cure” “remission” and “cancer free” so that you use the correct terms when talking to your loved one.
- Treat your friend the way you always have, sharing news of your life if they ask, but don’t blather on about petty complaints.
- Read blogs written by people with a similar type and stage of cancer in order to gain insights.
- Be present. Be willing to listen or share silence.
- Express your love, caring and support in words and deeds, such as “I’m here for you; I love you, I’m sorry you’re going through this”.
Thanks for reading. And as always- #FuckCancer