Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Attention all caregivers! Please read on if you *really* want to be there for someone you love who’s fighting cancer.
The Top 3 Things Cancer Patients Can’t Stand Hearing From Their Loved Ones
1. That we somehow caused our cancer. This includes reminding us of “bad” habits that we have or haven’t given up, or implying, via “The Secret” mythology, that we somehow attracted it, or, via something like Catholicism, that cancer is some kind of punishment for our sins.
2. That there is more we can be doing to fight our cancer. Once you have gone through surgery, chemo, hair loss, and radiation, then you can gauge your threshold for dealing and suggest something more we can do. On second thought, don’t even bother then. We don’t want to hear it.
3. What we should do post-treatment to keep our cancer from coming back. Please don’t tell us how to keep our cancer from coming back. Tell the American Medical Association, or the National Institutes of Health, or the Centers For Disease Control. Rest assured, they’re dying to know so they can monetize your miracle advice.
Why do people we love tell us these things? Because they love us, and they can’t bear the thought of losing us. That, and they really do think, perhaps because they’re not the one with a chest port, that we can have some measure of control over our cancer. Or, rather, that they can have some measure of control over our cancer.
Try as we might to convince ourselves that life is predictable and logical, the fact is, we live in a world of complete uncertainty. As such, our first response to the unexpected is to seek out logical, rational conclusions based in causality. Why? Because we need to believe that things happen for a reason, and if we reduce cancer to an effect with a cause, then, in a twisted way, it gives us the illusion of having power over it. If I caused my cancer, then I can cure it! Even better, not only can I cure it; I can keep it from coming back! See how that works?
This is the height of insanity, and trying to convince someone fighting cancer of it, while it might give you comfort, is a backhanded compliment at best, and a hurtful insult at worst. Most people with cancer have already struggled with staying positive in the face of relentless unpredictability. Give them some credit for STILL BEING ALIVE and stop sharing your opinion on how they can manage, survive, or prevent their disease better.