Hi all, Cancer certainly teaches us about how people around us react in times of trouble. I have been heartened by the kindness and overwhelming support shown to me throughout my journey fighting Lymphoma. On the flip side, I have been gob smacked (and mildly entertained if it's possible) by the people who have made insensitive comments to me, mistakenly thinking that they're helpful. What is particularly surprising is that many of these comments have been from colleagues, who are registered midwives, nurses and doctors (and should be skilled in being sensitive and supportive as part of their profession). Please feel free to add any comments about insensitive comments that have been made toward you. I'm opening this discussion to highlight the things that are helpful, to vent frustration, and for sheer black humour at the stupidity of people ;-) Here's some things that have been said to me since diagnosis... 1) I had the run around of being misdiagnosed and having to obtain a 2nd opinion before finally being diagnosed with Lymphoma. I had 2 people tell me (after separately being told this story) "I know somebody who got misdiagnosed, and they died." Ummm, not the right thing to tell me right now, thank you very much! 2) "I'd like to tell you of a miracle diet that cured someone with terminal cancer." Thanks for your offer, but if it was that simple, people who eat rubbish would be the sick ones and those who eat well would stay well. I eat well, so I'd rather trust modern medicine first. Complimentary therapies yes, alternative therapies no way! 3) After I'd been in hospital for 2 days with my first round of Chemo, after I'd said I'd been having Chemo, the man opposite me said "is this to do with your pregnancy? At least you've got a new baby to look forward to!" It's Cancer, not pregnancy! Cancer is not something to look forward to, as if I'd be having Chemo if I was pregnant, it would harm a baby! Being bloated from fluid overload sucks enough without some insensitive faux par about a non-existent pregnancy. Of course I didn't say any of this in reply, I simply hung my head. 4) A colleague twice my age said "I've never had Chemo, so I don't know what you're going through. I hope I never know what you're going through, call me selfish but I don't ever want to get Cancer (flippant laugh)" I'm more used to older people saying that they wish it was them, not me, as I am young, but not that they're glad it's me! I can't say I ever wanted to get Cancer, but it doesn't discriminate. Is it wrong for me to secretly hope that karma bites them in the bum? 5) "At least you've caught it early" "No, it's actually widespread, stage 4" "Well I'm sure we've all got something happening in our bodies hahaha" ????? We all have widespread cancer in our bodies, I don't think so! 6) "You're lucky you got out of Accreditation at work last week" "I would've preferred to be at work than in hospital having Chemo!" Add to that anyone complaining about being tired, having a cold or a bad day etc etc etc. I also know that people mean well when they say I have a "good" Cancer, but I say "would you rather be hit by a bike, car or truck?" It's better not to be hit at all, but yes if you're going to be hit it's better to be a treatable one. It doesn't make the journey any easier! The best thing that people have said? "How are you feeling?" "Thinking of you" "You're amazing and strong!" And then actually listening to the response...
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Occasional Contributor
Oh I forgot one more... 7) "Are you going to have a party to celebrate having time off work?" Are you kidding? Celebrating having a couple of sick days to have Chemo and feel like rubbish? Perhaps a party when I get the all clear at the end would be great, but not at the start! Cancer is not worth celebrating...
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New Contributor
Catherine251 thanks for your post. I know a little of what you refer to. Whilst I do not have cancer myself, my partner passed away 6 weeks ago from cancer. Going through this has likewise made me notice how some people stand by you and how others seem to pretend nothing out of the ordinary is happening. You really do get to see who can handle the hard stuff and who can't. As for inappropriate comments ... after battling cancer for 2 years, my partner went into emergency and stayed in hospital for 10 days. We were soon told that there was nothing more they could do and that time would be short. Throughout his time in hospital he did not want to see anyone but me and two close friends. During this time I had lunch with some other friends of his, partly out of a sense of obligation, to fill them in what was happening. One of them fired question after question after question at me, then gave me patronising advise telling me how I must be feeling and then went on to say "we were talking the other day (referring to herself and the other friends present) and we were talking about how we have needs in this too. We're effected by this too you know". I'm not entirely sure what she was insinuating. It felt directed at me and to this day I am not sure why she felt the need to tell me that or what her point was. Perhaps she felt I was somehow preventing her needs being met. If so, how I was doing that I really do not know. Either way it hurt and was the last thing I needed to hear then or ever in this situation.
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Occasional Contributor
I am so sorry for your loss Miso, and my heart goes out to you at this tough time. It sounds like these friends of your partner were absorbed in their own feelings of loss without consideration of your own loss. Clearly they didn't understand that grief isn't supposed to be a competition. Perhaps they blamed you for the fact that your partner didn't wish to have them around at the end, or they felt that you should provide support to them. Perhaps they're just selfish and insensitive. Either way, it is a time where actions like this are the opposite from what you need. Some people really do lack the ability to think about anyone else and speak without care for how their words might make other people feel. I hope you have loving and caring friends that are giving you the support you need. Try not to dwell on the negativity. My post does reflect some bitterness and anger at how rude people can be, but from these lemons I am trying to make lemonade. Sometimes we have to laugh or we'll cry. Have you touched base with any support services? There might be benefit in getting some support from people not emotionally invested in your situation. All the best, stay strong.
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Cancer Council NSW
I had some good ones as a carer too - Gee, cancer is so common now its like getting a cold! ...........Yeh right - Oh you poor thing, but cancer picked the right carer because you are such a strong person..........Mmmm - I guess with all the sitting around in waiting rooms you get to read lots of books........doesn't even rate a response - Oh now its over you mustn't know what to do with yourself, you have so much time on your hands you lucky thing.........Ah...priceless! I guess its a case of many people not really knowing what to say and blurt out the first thing that springs to mind regardless of the content or context. For me it was keeping a sense of humour about it and a mental note of the ridiculous so I could have a chuckle every now and then! But sheesh......
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Contributor
Oh there are so many of these, most are now pushed to the back of my mind. One memorable one was when my husband was told that he couldn't drive any more, he had GBM, people would say gee you're lucky you get to be chauffered everywhere now! So him losing his independence having to sell his motorbike is better? grrr Many of the inappropriate comments came at his final stage and after his passing, mostly from his own mother one of my favs directed at me was you are young with your whole life ahead of you what was she inferring that I was going to go out and hook up with someone else? All I can think is yep a whole long life ahead of me without my soulmate, best friend etc
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Cancer Council NSW
I guess this can be another example of people not really knowing what to say so just blurting something out with the view it might be comforting. Like the "just stay positive and everything will be ok"........That is the common throw away line that is like a full stop on the conversation. :( I find many Australians don't actually deal with tough situations very well. I wonder if it stems from the "she'll be right mate" attitude?
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Occasional Contributor
Thanks for your comments anniem and minx. Wow, there really are some amazingly insensitive people out there! You're right in saying that people are trying to be comforting and shed a positive light on a negative. I guess what people don't realise is that there are times in life where there is no 'bright side' or 'silver lining'. Sometimes there is real true gut-wrenching pain, that can't be softened by an optimistic comment. People are uncomfortable with this, particularly if they've been lucky enough to not experience true heartache or grief. I had another good one yesterday... I haven't lost my hair from chemo yet, but someone cheerfully said "if you lose your hair it might be great as you'll get to have a new hairstyle!" Yes, being bald is a hairstyle I've been unable to try until now, I could never go to the hairdresser and get a buzz cut. Are you kidding me? Perhaps she should shave her head for a fab new look
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Super Contributor
I have forgotten many as it's over 3 years since my diagnosis . One thing that topped them off was reading Lisa O'hara's Facebook page ,only weeks before she died . Someone posted about foods that would cure cancer . This lovely young woman had been on Today Tonight telling her story a couple of months before her death . By the time the silly advice was posted on her page her whole body was riddled with cancer . How insensitive some people can be !!! I found that most of my family and friends said nothing at all . It did hurt a little that my family members never spoke of it to me but I got over that . One told me that they didn't know what to say . I only wished that they would just tell me that .
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Cancer Council NSW
Yes many don't know what to say so choose to completely ignore which is just so awkward sometimes. Imagine being in the workplace when everyone is talking about how their weekend was and no one including someone who is working through their treatment?!.....Arrghhhh I had a friend who was dying with metastatic breast cancer and during the last couple of weeks as she drifted in and out of a drugged sleep it was suggested by someone to change to organic food and a "special" water from Europe and all would be ok! I still shake my head about this. She couldn't even eat 😞
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Occasional Contributor
I guess I've been "lucky" my friends are generally supportive, they understand when I'm too tired to meet obligations, they always ask how I am and how I'm feeling . My husband on the other hand has a "you've had the radiation" get over it, He doesn't understand it's not a cold and you don't just "get over it". Without saying the words the implication is clear that it's no big deal, well I guess it Isn't for him, he gets short tempered if I mention anything about cancer, I'm not out of the woods by a long shot, I think any comment from him would be Better than being swept under the carpet, thank goodness for a couple of good friends
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Super Contributor
It's a pity that your husband doesn't fully understand hoe you feel . On the other hand he may be a bit worried and he would feel better if you were acting as though it was all over .
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