What do you say?

Cancer is evil.
It is ugly, it is vile.
It is more feared than …
a dark alley
snakes
spiders
… they aren’t even in the same league.
Cancer causes a reaction. Most people have been affected by cancer. People fear that cancer will eventually happen to them or to someone they love.

People don’t know what to say to someone with cancer. I didn’t know what to say before I had cancer and I’m often not sure what to say now. I had a sweet lady come up to me after my diagnosis and ask me how long I had to live.

Everyone responds differently when they get a cancer diagnosis. There is fear but the way people live after a cancer diagnosis is different. I responded to my cancer diagnosis by staying even busier than I had been before.
I was afraid to slow down.
I was afraid to ask for help.
I was afraid to let it sink in that …
I had cancer.
I still struggle to say that.

Looking back now I know I stayed busy because if I slowed down or asked for help, I would have fallen apart. I would have had to acknowledge that I had cancer and I preferred to deny the disease. In my mind acknowledging it gave cancer more power over me. I was not sick. I did not want to be pitied or treated as if I was dying.

People often don’t know how to react or what to do to help. I had a friend recently tell me she didn’t ask if I needed her because I seemed so strong. She asked me what would have helped me when I was going through all the treatments. I thought about her question and before I realized what I was saying I said, ” I would have loved someone to have come over, brought popcorn and a movie and made me sit down.” I didn’t slow down or sit down and I don’t think I even exhaled at all during the seven months I was going through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. I am not sure I would have slowed down then but that is what I needed. I was surrounded by many wonderful friends during that time and it would have been harder to go through those months without those wonderful women. My daughter was my caregiver but I never wanted to put more on her so I kept much of my fear and needs to myself.
What did I need?
I needed someone to hold me.
I needed my breast cancer to be acknowledged but not pitied.
I needed to feel like I mattered.
I needed to feel like I was not an annoyance.
I needed to feel like I was not being ignored.
I needed a husband that treated me like he cared.
I needed to feel like I wasn’t alone …
but I was alone with my cancer.

When someone asks me what to say to someone that is going through cancer that is a hard question. Each person responds differently and needs something different.
It is important just to let them know you care…
to let them know you recognize they are going through something scary…
to let them know they matter and are not being dismissed as already dead.
Then they don’t feel quite so alone.

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5 thoughts on “What do you say?

  1. Recently, I have found out that two people I know have been diagnosed with cancer. And, really what do you say? One person is older and we discussed the fact that many people have fought the battle and won. But, the other person is a friend’s child and I was at a loss. So, thanks for posting and I will use your suggestion about showing them I care. I hope you keep going with this blog as it is important for people to read about your experiences and successes.

    Liked by 1 person

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