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Keep It to Yourself

“I don't think she should be spending her money on that.” my friend "Lucy" without cancer said.

Lucy and I were having a conversation about our friend, “Rory” (pseudonym) who was being treated for Stage III Large Cell Lymphoma, the same cancer that killed Art.

“She needs to be thinking about her future. and I don't think she is.”

I didn't say anything.

Because I focus on cancer, I have many conversations with friends of those with cancer. What strikes me is how every person takes their own ideas of what they would do if they were in the same position and then uses those ideas to judge what the person with cancer is doing. It is not uncommon but man is it infuriating when you are at the other end of it. I was told at least 12 times -- yes I started keeping count -- that it was time for me to pack up Art’s clothes.

And I have to confess that I have used the same judgment on others. It’s hard not to judge. I thought I knew exactly how I’d behave in a given situation. I was positive about it. But I learned that unless you’ve been in that situation, you have no idea how you’d act.

I can recall two very specific ways I behaved when Art had cancer and after he died that surprised me.

  • I was docile when Art first got cancer, trusting everything the doctors said and did no research, nor did I want anyone to do research for us.

  • I made poor financial decisions after Art died, completely opposite of what I thought and said I would do.

It’s hard when someone you care about has cancer. And it’s sometimes hard to keep your opinion to yourself! The only problem is what we think we would do and what we actually do are often very different.

What spurred this post? This story on Hidden Brain called The Ventilator. It highlights the differences between what we say we would in a life or death situation and what we actually do.

But no matter what you think you would do, your friend with cancer probably doesn’t need to hear it...unless they ask. You could be 100% right but what your friend needs is not another opinion, they are getting plenty. They need an ear, a sounding board and someone who will ask clarifying questions with as little judgment as possible.

Sometimes one of the most powerful acts of love is

keeping your opinions to yourself!

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