Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

*#&% Cancer

Having written about cancer a number of times, I’m starting to resent that it’s using me as its publicity agent.  I don’t like cancer.  In fact, I can use a word here that I have made a concentrated effort to never use in my lifetime, but today I will: I absolutely HATE* cancer.  Don’t have a bit of use for it.cancer

Last night, I had unexpected visitors drop by for an unscheduled social visit who brought with them an unwanted, uninvited parasitic little guest… Cancer.  While I immensely love the original guests and would entertain them at any hour, day or night – I can’t stand the company they are now forced to keep and pay an inordinate amount of time and attention to.  I wish they could make him go away.

The fact of the matter is, that for this family, as much as they are waging the battle to get rid of cancer, they now have to take it everywhere.  And, people are going to talk about it.  Daily life for a cancer patient becomes a running dialogue about treatment, side effects, dietary and physical issues, how they have to negotiate nearly impossible time constraints and the financial and emotional costs that accompany a diagnosis.  And it all needs to be talked about, whether we like “it” or not.

Back in the day, I had loads of relatives who couldn’t even say the word, “cancer.”  They would lower their eyes and whisper hoarsely, calling it the “Big C.”  They were afraid to discuss it and that made things more difficult for the person who actually had it — and by “it” I mean cancer.  Along with the generalized crap sandwich that a diagnosis of cancer brings, comes sadness – anger – confusion – helplessness, etc… and all of that is made more complicated by a lack of communication for everyone involved.  So, you MUST talk about it.

But, even the smart guys over at www.cancer.net say that it can be difficult to know: a) what to say, b) what not to say, c) how to be sensitive, and d) how to remain supportive at all times.  But, they do have some suggestions and I’m going to give you just a few I’ve found helpful over the years:

  • Keep the lines of communication open and know that not every conversation needs to be about cancer.  Talk about all the usual and familiar topics, too.
  • Be respectful, especially when it comes to frustration and anger (which is normal). Try not to take it personally.
  • Be honest about your feelings – but don’t overburden.
  • Provide “active support” like running errands, taking care of their pets or coordinating others to help out with various tasks.  Be aware of the person’s needs and know that some (uhm, a LOT of) people don’t like to ask for help.  Just do.
  • Listen before giving advice.
  • Choose your words carefully.  Unless you also have a diagnosis, avoid phrases like “I know…” because: You don’t.
  • Don’t deny the reality.  Avoid statements like “Everything will be fine.” The person may withdraw from your support, because they know they can’t express their true concerns with you.

For me, words are some of the most beautiful and precious things we can share with one another – whether written, sung or spoken.  Why we would ever want to deny someone of that great gift, is beyond me.

My friends with cancer… excuse me, I meant to say, “My friends with *#&% Cancer” (because this is the one time expletives are totally acceptable), deserve to talk about that unwanted, nasty *#&% visitor all they want.  Derisive, unpleasant talk, too – if they want.  And, with any luck?  Maybe he’ll go away.

xo – t.

Cancer sucks.” ~ Anonymous

When someone has cancer, the whole family and everyone who loves them does, too.” ~ Terri Clark

***

*There are a lot of things that deserve our hatred: crimes against humanity, abuse, disease, poverty – why in the world would you use to describe a dislike for petty annoyances (like food you’d rather not eat or a Kardashian)?

Leave a Reply