Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cancer Etiquette 101

I thought this would be helpful since we all know someone that is being affected with cancer and we are not taught how to react. I really liked this when I received it and wanted to pass it along.

What do you say when you learn that someone
you care about has cancer?

What do you do?
Is there any “right” way or “wrong” way to respond
to the news?Most cancer survivors we’ve talked with have stories
to tell of comments and gestures made by friends
and family members, some of which were hurtful
and some of which were helpful. Based on those
survivors’ stories as well as our own experiences,
we offer the following "do's" and “don’t’s”.

First the "don't's":
1. The worst thing you can say or do is to say or do
nothing at all. Almost every survivor we’ve ever
spoken with can tell of at least one person who, upon
hearing the news, disappeared and was never heard
from again. Maybe the fact that your friend or loved
one has cancer is the worst news you’ve ever heard
and you can’t stand the thought of him being this sick.
You don’t know what to say or do, and it’s too
painful to see him without hair, and the house smells
like a hospital, and, well, it’s all so just so scary. We
don’t mean to be harsh here, but this really isn’t
about you. Stick around, please. Your loving
presence alone can be the healing salve for a
wounded, frightened spirit.
2. We know you mean well when you say, “God
won’t give you more than you can handle,” but we
wish you would listen to the implications in that
comment and refrain from using it. It implies that
God gave us cancer which inference often leads
newly diagnosed patients to wonder if God is
punishing them for something they did or failed to
do, and that's the last thing we need to be worrying
about right now.To clean up a popular phrase, stuff happens.
People get cancer (1 in 3, in fact). People get lots of
other awful diseases, too. Babies are born with
defects. Long-distance runners have heart attacks.
Brave men and women go to war and get killed.
Supermen fall from horses, and maniacs fly airplanes
into buildings. And, yes, many people do get more
than they can handle as evidenced by suicide rates.
We don’t mean to step on anyone’s religion here, but
we refuse to believe God is the one causing all this mayhem, destruction and chaos.
Conversely, we believe God grieves with us when
these things happen, and He is there for us and with
us in the treatment room, in the delivery room, on
the racecourse, on the battlefield, in the emergency
room, on the airplane and inside its target. Instead
of telling us that God gave us cancer, tell us that
God will be with us every step of the way.
3. Don’t predict the future. Acknowledge the
seriousness of the diagnosis without being morbid
(Oh, my God! My aunt had the very same thing and
she died 8 months later!”) and without being
unrealistic (“You’ll probably outlive me. I could get
hit by a bus tomorrow!”). We don’t know what’s
going to happen to us, and neither do you. Tell us
happy stories of other long-term cancer survivors
(but refrain from saying someone had “the very same
thing”; no two cancer diagnoses are ever the
Never, ever tell us stories with unhappy endings.

Now for the “do’s”:
1.Things to say: “I’m here for you.” “You can cry
with me.” “I love you.” “I won’t leave
you.” “Whatever you’re feeling is okay.”
Just be there. Follow our lead. We’ll let you know if
we want to “talk about it,” and if we do, please let
us. Don’t change the subject. When you don’t allow
us to talk about our disease, it makes us feel alone
and isolated.
2.Things to do: Take my kids out for pizza and a
movie or, better yet, for the weekend. Offer to
pick up prescriptions, take the dog to the groomer
and run other errands. Clip cartoons and funny
pictures and send them in a card. Bring thoughtful
gifts (a book or magazine, a tabletop fountain, a
meditation tape or CD); avoid things with strong
smells (bath sets, flowers, food, etc.) until you
know how I'm reacting to my treatments.

Ha Ha Ha...I just figured out how to change the color of the've only been typing on this thing for 6 months now. lol
I hope this helps some of you in your life if you are ever faced with "what the heck do I say or do?"


1 comment:

Rannyjean said...

Thanks Kim, it came at a time in our life when we just learned my mom has breast cancer & I didn't say any of the bad things!