THEY SAID WHAT???
1. “Well, at least….”
“Well, at least it’s not the bad kind of cancer.”
“At least you will loose weight!”
“At least you look good bald.”
When people said that to Art, he shared with me that he said in response, in his head, “Well at least I can see what an asshole you are!”
Why you shouldn’t say “Well, at least…”
- It’s dismissive of the cancer patient’s feelings – the terror, discomfort and fear.
- It’s dismissive of the cancer patient’s courage. Dealing with cancer takes a lot of energy and fortitude.
- It shows you to be a not caring person. Sorry but there it is. If you just stop and think about the words that are coming out of your mouth and the meaning behind them, it sounds like you are working to not be touched by the cancer patients situation, to in effect, not care.
2. “This is part of God’s bigger plan.”
Well then screw God’s plan! I believe in God. Many cancer patients do to. However, when in the middle of hell, God’s plan sucks. God is love, not suffering and pain. God’s plan is not cancer.
3. “Your situation makes me see what a good life I have.”
While the cancer patient is probably glad that you are finally grateful for the good life you have, comparing your life to her crappy life right now is not flattering. All you’re doing is affirming how shitty her situation is. Do you like being called fat when you are already feel gross and fat?
4. “You don’t get more than you can bear.”
There are many, many, many, many moments in a cancer patients life when they don’t feel like they can bear any more of what they are dealing with. There were many mornings when I was lucky enough to hold my big, emotionally fierce, 6’6 husband as he cried unsure if he could face another day. And some days the only way he did was because of the love and support we surrounded him with. We beared it together. That statement means you have no interest in being part of that group.
5. “My niece, mother-in-law, brother, cousin, co-worker, neighbor had cancer and she/he is just fine now!”
Honestly, most times the cancer patient doesn’t really care about your niece, mother-in-law, brother, cousin, co-worker, neighbor who had cancer. Your friend is in the trenches NOW! Having no energy and no eyebrows sucks NOW. This statement does not motivate the cancer person. What can, is talking to someone who has gone through cancer So unless your niece, mother-in-law, brother, cousin, co-worker, neighbor who had cancer is willing to talk about their experience, honestly and openly, this is not a helpful statement
Look, finding out someone you care about has cancer is really tough. It plays with your mind and brings up feelings around such easy-to-think-about topics such as …. mortality and death. These topics often put us in fear making it easy to say the wrong thing. So….
SAS it!: 3 Steps to Say the Right Thing.
STOP. Pause. Take a breath. This single breath could mean the difference from a friendship continuing or one ending. Finding out someone you know has cancer is like being slapped in face. It’s surprising, it takes your breath away, it’s unsettling. Take a moment to take it in and feel.
ASK. Why do you feel the need to speak? Are you uncomfortable? Afraid to look bad? Have been told that you need to say something? (Not a good place speak from) Or do you feel this out pouring of love that makes you want to cry? (A good place to speak from). Ask yourself, what would I want someone to say to me if I had cancer? Be honest, none of this tough macho, “I wouldn’t want anyone to say anything to me” crap.
SPEAK. Say, “I’m so sorry.” Say “I love you.” Say “ I can….” and finish the sentence with a specific kind of help you can offer. But speak from a place of love. Can’t manage it? Then just stick to I’m sorry. That’s good enough.