Re-posted from http://benbbrave.blogspot.com/2011/06/i-have-cancer-not-paper-cut_14.html I recently read an opinion piece in the New York Times about some of the things people who aren't sick say to people who are. You should read the article, but here is a summary of what the author disliked and why. 1. "What can I do to help?" This puts the burden back on the person with cancer to come up with something. 2. "My thoughts are prayers are with you." Overused. 3. "Did you try the mango colonic I recommended?" Something that saved your Uncle Tom won't work on me. 4. "Everything will be okay." You're not a doctor or fortune teller. 5. "How are we today?" I'm an adult, speak to me like one. 6. "You look great." Leave the idea of how we think we look to us. I had mixed feelings about this article. I also shudder when people say 1 and 2. I haven't experienced 5. And I don't have a problem with 3 and 6 because I like hearing things people have tried, and because I worked out from an early age that I was easy on the eye. Then there is Number Four Number Four is an interesting one. I feel there is a real role for this kind of blind optimism - it balances the statistics and raw truths you hear from specialists. It restores that sense of "Yeah, maybe everything can be alright in the end". Hearing this phrase can pull you out of a funk, put a bounce in your step or bring a smile to your face. I began incorporating positive affirmations into my daily life almost immediately after my diagnosis. Little signs in my house can be found exclaiming 'Each day I am stronger' and 'I heal quickly and without complications'. I treat Number Four as a sort of unsolicited positive affirmation. It wasn't always that way At the beginning I would burn on the inside when people said Number Four, especially if earlier they had had to check with me what type of cancer I had (You've got stomach cancer right?). I saw red when hit with what I felt were completely unfounded and unintelligent assessments of my complicated cancer. I would smile, but inside yell: I have C-A-N-C-E-R, not a paper cut! I now understand that when people say Number Four they don't actually know, but they are hoping - and that is a damn nice thing to hear. They want you to be okay. They want you to be alright. They want you around in 12 months time. While I am not personally comfortable saying Number Four to people who have cancer, I do like it when people say it to me. So keep it up.
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Super Contributor
I found it interesting. If someone said to me "How are we today?" I'd probably feel like saying that I couldn't speak for someone else but that I'm ok,if I was quick enough. I like no.2.It may be overused but it implies that the person cares and feels for you . No, 4 would annoy or anger me but I would not let the person know. Mo.6 My husband used to say that or similar and it used to upset me bacause to me it couldn't possibly be true.It's over a year since surgery and my looks have improved a bit . Also I'm getting better at make-up to make me look more normal. Now I can accept compliments better. A friend said to me a few months ago that "we are getting used to how you look ". I liked that . It was honest.
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Contributor
I like number 2 as well. People want to say something nice & this is a good harmless nice thing to say. Number 6 is ok with me. I like it when people say it to me as they generally mean it in a 'you're getting healthier looking' way. Number 4 bothered me a bit - I always had confidence that in the long term things would be ok but there was the short term crappiness that I had to get through first which this seems to skim over. But I didn't like that the article seemed to be trying to speak for all patients when different people will have some different thoughts. I had a pamphlet designed for the breast cancer patient to give to their friends and workmates which had tips on what were appropriate and non-appropriate things to say to breast cancer patients. I have talked to some people who really liked that pamphlet and found it helpful to give it out to people. But for me personally I was horrified by the thought of giving people an instruction manual for how they should deal with me. Sometimes people have said things to me that I thought were insensitive but I didn't mind because I felt it meant they weren't treating me with kid-gloves which was good.
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Frequent Contributor
This is a good post, ben and very silly allicat comments too. I would only add that anything that objectifies my existence rubs me up the wrong way. I tend not to want to engage with people abut my health at all. I dread being in groups of people where chit chat is the expectation. I avoid them and I don't need them for my social wellbeing. I have a school reunion coming up in August (40 years) and I recently decided that I have no interest in going. If I went it would only be to win money after betting on which of number one to six would be directed at me the most often. 'You look great' is the early market leader. (My oncologist said it this morning, actually,but he's allowed!) I have decided to leave it up to other people to chase me and find a way of getting to me (if they are really interested in me) that is beyond the usual list of perfunctory transaction options ben has listed.
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