What to Say to Someone With Cancer

But I Don’t Know What to Say to Someone With Cancer?

A friend forwarded the following the most excellent article http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2011/12/person-cancer.html about what to say to someone with cancer. The author’s sentiments totally resonated with me. Take into consideration that the person with cancer writing the article is one of the Sopranos (Stage IV) and I’m just Stage I (which is one step worse off than Stage 0 but no where near Stage 4). I offer these ruminations not because anyone has offended me. It would be nearly impossible, unless you’re asking me in a group about my menstruation cycle in a serious tone, to offend me. Making fun of me, on the other hand, is always fair game no matter how big the crowd. Me being me, though, I have to put my own spin on the matter.
what to say

Here is my own list of What Not to Say to Someone With Cancer:

  • You look tired” or more directly, saying anything with the look on your face where you lower your eyes into a squint like you’re constipated with a voice you would use to talk to an amputee kitten. Poor little kitten. I don’t feel sorry for myself, so you shouldn’t either.
  • Things could be so much worse!” Yes, I’m aware. It can always be worse (think of the poor kitten). Cancer is not the worst thing that has ever happened to me, but it’s up there. This statement makes me feel like a whiny putz.
  • Let me know if you need anything.” I’m positive I’ve said this very thing to people with health or other issues, and I know I meant it kindly and sincerely. The problem is that people in my position don’t know what they need most of the time. When I figure it out I’m too embarrassed to ask for it. It’s much easier to accept a specific offer (“I’m on my way to the grocery. What can I get you?”) than for me to call up a friend with two children of her own and ask her to detach from her already hectic life and run to my house to mop my kitchen floor because my arm won’t bend.
  • No one gets more than they can handle.” WTF does this mean, anyway? As if I have any choice other than to handle it? “Royal subjects: Today I choose not to have cancer! Let it be so!”
  • “It is what it is.” or my all-time favorite, “Everything happens for a reason.” Again, WTF?
  • “Anything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Stronger than what? A ferret? I feel pretty strong as it is, thank you.

I’m happy to report most people get it right most of the time. I vow right now that if you commit some unintentional platitude infraction in my presence, I’ll just punch you in the groin and we can call it even. How do you like that, stupid? Honey Badger is bada$$.

8 thoughts on “What to Say to Someone With Cancer

  1. I’m heading to brunch in the Castro now. Can I get a bottomles mimosa or bloody mary for you? Of course, I’ll drink it for you to. Really, it’s okay/not a bother….that’s what friends are for. Xo

  2. I was just at a party last night where I found out one of my long time friends from a previous life, has been dealing with Uterine Cancer. (We only get to see each other as a group twice a year). She’s doing wonderfully. Like me, she tends to head into things head first, no holds barred, don’t beat around the bush. She talked, I asked questions. We compared notes about our mutual hysterectomies- mine for fibroids, not cancer. Almost anyone I have in my life who has dealt with this in one form or another, would rather have someone ask them a question right up front instead of trying to beat around the bush or put a spin on it. As she said, when we were talking family history, how does anyone know since they never talked about people dying or being sick with cancer. It was a word that was never spoken and by doing that it carried a stigma. It was a interesting topic of conversation for a Christmas party and it lasted an hour. I think it was one of the best ones I had the entire night. Anyone who knows me, knows if they need something, all they have to do is pick up the phone. It’s never an imposition and it’s just who I am. I don’t have to say it to them. If I can do it, I will do what it takes.

    Now onto happier things- todays Christmas party will have the most delicious punch and it’s hubby’s turn to drive!!!

  3. I remember listening to NPR not too long ago and someone was talking about breast cancer and how it was talked about fifty years ago. Thing is, they couldn’t use the word “breast”, let alone “cancer”. The world is a crazy place.


  4. Few things are more uncomfortable than someone trying to be nice and instead gagging on both feet shoved ankle-deep in their mouth. It’s a struggle for both sides. (Guess a giant bear hug wouldn’t be appropriate for this case either…) When all else fails, know that we’re out there – those random friends in life who love to be with you, read your blog and love it and will shout with you when you tell this cancer to go F*theHell off.

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