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...
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.