Let’s get one thing out of the way straight away. Cancer sucks. But you didn’t need me to tell you that.
It’s scary, and confusing and downright awful. But when you’re a cancer patient, you can’t live your life thinking so negatively every day. Instead, we decide to take the piss out of our situation and the aspects of our treatment. I’ve had cancer twice, so I’m speaking from experience when I say we see the humour in everything, even if everyone around us is filled with grief and melancholy. We receive a lot of calls and messages every day from people who are unsure as to what to say, but say it anyway.
Here are a handful of things NOT to say to your friend/relative/loved one with cancer:
- “You’re so inspiring”
Literally, this one is a killer. Have you guys seen this video? No? Watch it.
Similarly, to what Stella said, having cancer doesn’t automatically make me noble and amazing. If you find me inspiring, you should be inspired by yourself just living and breathing each day because that’s all I’m trying to do. Sure, maybe if I was fighting cancer whilst doing a handstand on a moving train, balancing my IV drip on my foot, that’d be a little inspirational… But I don’t see that happening.
- Don’t talk about cancer stuff when you see them
I spend all day talking about my scans, appointments and medicines to my doctors and nurses, I don’t want to come home and repeat the same things over again. Tell me how much you hate that Sarah bitch, or about the cute guy you met at the gym the other day. Chances are I need a break from all the clinical crap and that’s where you can come in. What a gem.
- Don’t ask if there’s ‘anything you can do’
Unless you can give me a new lymphatic system (one that isn’t riddled with cancer) then it’s a no from me. Instead of asking such a broad question that I can so easily take the piss out of – use your common sense and comfort your friend, whether that be by bringing over a movie, snacks, a magazine or even your plain old self to keep them company. Doing something, rather than asking what you can do is 110% more thoughtful and helpful.
- Don’t try to sell me alternate medicine
I don’t want to hear about the miraculous pills your aunt’s friend’s nephew’s cousin’s brother-in-law’s girlfriend took and is now cured. I have a team of about 20 doctors, nurses and surgeons who spend days and nights conjuring up scientific and proven ways to cure me. I might stick with that, survival rates sound quite promising to me.
- “I can totally relate because my grandpa had lung cancer/my dog had cancer/my
great aunt who lives in Africa had Melanoma”
Mate, unless you’re under the knife, have litres of chemotherapy pumping through your veins or volts of radiation blazing through you, you cannot relate. Saying this to me not only diminishes what I’m going through but proves to me you actually have no idea what you’re talking about. It’s okay to be unsure and confused. Cancer is not Voldemort’s name: we aren’t afraid to talk about it – Just ask.
- “I’m so sorry.”
It’s okay, it’s not your fault, and it’s not mine either. You don’t need to apologise. I always find this to be the most awkward thing people say when someone in their family dies, or something bad happens to them personally. Don’t bring down the vibe, be honest and say “that sucks” because it does, and we can bitch about it together.
- “I know we have had our differences but…”
Babes, I’m not dead. I’m not coming to haunt you – don’t inbox me like I’m your priest at confessional and tell me how you suddenly have sympathy for me. If you hated me before and thought I was a bitch, please now consider me a bitch with cancer. Cancer didn’t relieve me of my sins and make me an angel, chances are I still hate you and I don’t want you to message me either. Bye Felicia.
Now I know you’re probably sweating reading this article thinking “shit, I am a horrible person – I’ve said all of these things” but relax. There is no ‘right’ thing to say when tragedy strikes, and chances are your loved one has realised this and isn’t taking your little mistakes to heart. Just do your best in an awful situation and at the end of the day if it was done with love, it’s the thought that counts.