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2013-03-06 10:52 AM

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Subject: How to talk about cancer
Hi there.  A teacher co-worker of mine was unexpectedly diagnosed with ovarian cancer 10 days ago.  She underwent a total hysterectomy without any of us knowing until after the fact. She had been in the hospital in Salt Lake City (120 miles east of my town) and is now home.  She will begin chemo soon so will not be returning the rest of this year.  This lady is completely alone.  Her husband is in a Salt Lake City hospice facility dying of heart disease. She has no family nearby and does not intend to move closer to anyone.  Now that we all know her situation, I don't know how to proceed.  I want to offer help in any way but not sure how.  Do I just show up on her doorstep?  Call to see if I can come by?  I've never known anyone that's been diagnosed with cancer--I want to support her and let her know I'm there for her but I don't know how to do this.  Any advice? Suggestions?  Suggestions on how to be helpful?  Thanks.


2013-03-06 11:02 AM
in reply to: #4648541

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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer
I would just show up. Bring a meal or 2 already prepared that she can just heat up. If you see something that needs attending (laundry, light bulbs changed, garbage taken out) just do it. Engage her in conversation. Make sure her internet and such is working. She sounds like the type of person that would never ask, and probably say no she doesn't need help, but I think she'll appreciate it. Also keep in mind as something that may have to be considered is her treatment days will be harder than other days. You're a good person Kim for wanting to help.
2013-03-06 11:10 AM
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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer

gr33n - 2013-03-06 11:02 AM I would just show up. Bring a meal or 2 already prepared that she can just heat up. If you see something that needs attending (laundry, light bulbs changed, garbage taken out) just do it. Engage her in conversation. Make sure her internet and such is working. She sounds like the type of person that would never ask, and probably say no she doesn't need help, but I think she'll appreciate it. Also keep in mind as something that may have to be considered is her treatment days will be harder than other days. You're a good person Kim for wanting to help.

Yep.  ^^

"Hey, I heard you just had cancer sugery and will be starting chemo......I want to help you".

 

2013-03-06 11:14 AM
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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer

Just show up.  My experience is that one of the greatest things you can do for her is to be a good listener.  In all likelihood, she will be wrestling with a lot of thoughts and emotions and just verbalizing them is good therapy.  If you are able, offer to drive her to an appointment or chemo session.  These are hard things to go through alone because they involve a lot of waiting or sitting around.  Offer to find a good book or ask if she likes a particular type of magazine.

I was homebound for weeks as I went through my ordeal and I had several tri acquantances just showup.  It was like sunshine on a cloudy day.

2013-03-06 11:18 AM
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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer

 

I agree, better to show up with a nice cooked meal than to call and ask. A lot of people are gonna say, "no I am ok but thanks for the offer", if you call them. But if you show up with a meal they aren't gonna say no.

I don't know how often chemo treatments happen. But if possible either giving her a ride yourself or arranging them between you and others might be nice. Would be a tough thing to go to alone and I doubt she would want to drive home. Imagine going alone, in a cab, to chemo treatment. 

2013-03-06 11:29 AM
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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer

Different people respond in different ways to their diagnosis.   We had a family member recently pass away from cancer and at the beginning, she was open to people visiting.  Later, though, she only let one or two very close family members see her.  I think she wanted to keep some level of dignity and preserve how people remembered her.  Its important I think to respect the wishes of the individual. 

Your co-worker is in a tough situation.  I agree with the thoughts above, that it would likely be ok to drop by, especially with some meals (frozen so she can reheat them through the week as needed), but don't be offended if she refuses help.  I think that has to be respected as well.  Also bear in mind, that as the treatment progresses, her feelings may change.  Initially she may want help or not, but later that might flip. 

You are kind to be concerned about how to best help.



2013-03-06 11:30 AM
in reply to: #4648541

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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer

Very similar situation with one of my co-workers. I wanted badly to do SOMETHING while she was getting her chemo treatments but was unable to come up with anything appropriate that my co-workers were on board with (all my ideas cost too much money to do solo). I ended up sending her a few "thinking of you" cards.

Some other suggestions I got were to do yardwork or house cleaning, drive her to doctors appointments, bring ready-to-eat meals, etc. I got the advice to NOT send flowers or plants.

I would not just show up, I would call first and ask when would be a good time to drop off some items or whatever you're doing. I say this because even as a healthy person I hate people just showing up without calling - she may want to get dressed or straighten up the living room before hosting an unexpected visitor - I know I would.



Edited by lisac957 2013-03-06 11:33 AM
2013-03-06 11:34 AM
in reply to: #4648541

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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer

This is a VERY LONG response as it's just a cut & paste from my manuscript that I wrote about my cancer experience:

 

Chapter 10
How to deal with someone who has cancer.
________________________________________

There are six common and predictable response people will have when you tell them you have cancer.  Allow me…

1. The genuine, “I’m so sorry to hear that.  Might I ask what kind and do you have any answers yet about it and your treatment plan?” response.

2. The, “dude that sucks,” response.

3. The, “I will pray for you” or “my thoughts and prayers are with you,” response.

4. The fake, “what can I do to help you? (as they think, “please say nothing because I’m just saying this and I’m not really genuine about doing anything to help you” ) response.

5. The, “uh…  um…  er…” (as they back away from you because they think cancer is contagious) response.

6. The genuine, “I’m so sorry to hear that,” and then continues with, “I remember when my (relative/friend) had cancer.  He fought for so long bless his heart.  Right up to the very end.  I remember how frail and gaunt he looked before he died.  He went through hell and fought so hard – right up to the very end…  But you’re going to beat this!” response.

So let me say right now that depending on the person who has cancer, responses #1, #2 and #3 are the ONLY acceptable ones!  BE VERY CAREFUL WITH RESPONSE #3!  Only if you know the person is religious and will accept it in a positive way.  While it may seem like a wonderful thing from you, it can have the opposite effect in two ways:  It can come across as a mindless cliché.  And for many people, it has the aura of death about it.  “Praying for you,” can sound like you’re already gone.  Just know whom you’re talking to.

With #4; if you’re not willing to actually help someone in some way – don’t offer it.  And with #5; if you know someone who thinks someone with cancer is like someone with cooties – that it’s contagious – that you can catch cancer from someone else – demand that they buy and read my book.

And believe it or not.  The most common response…  By far…  At least four to one more than any other response is – NUMBER SIX!  People just have this burning desire to tell you their story or the story of someone they know/knew who had cancer.  They want to make a connection with you and relate.  OK.  That’s fine.  That’s normal.  But please, please, PLEASE – only do it with a successful SURVIVOR cancer story!

Let me make myself perfectly clear.  If someone tells you they have cancer, DON’T TELL THEM ABOUT SOMEONE YOU KNOW WHO DIED FROM CANCER!

It sounds simple, but I must have gotten at least 20, “let me tell you about the horror I witnessed this person go through with cancer before they gave out and died.  Oh, and…  Good luck to you!  You’re going to beat this!”  Sheesh!

 
A friend of mine, Larry, when he first heard that I had cancer, responded like this:
“Oh man!  Cancer!  I’m so sorry.  What kind of cancer?  How bad is it?”
“Throat cancer.  Just above my vocal cord.  It hasn’t spread yet so it’s not too bad.”
“Throat cancer?”
“Yeah.”
“As in when you get treatment for THROAT cancer, you won’t be able to talk?”
“Yeah.  Something like that.  They say the radiation will get so bad that at some point I won’t be able to speak anymore.”
…….. pause……..
“Ha ha ha ha ha!!!  You?!  Throat cancer?!  Unable to speak?!  How ironic is that?!  Ha ha!  Of all people to get throat cancer, it’s the dude who never shuts the hell up!  Oh man!  You know of course that we’re here for you with whatever you need.  But throat cancer?…  You?…  Ha ha ha!  Holy crap that’s ironic!”

To be honest – for me it was the PERFECT kind of response because I busted out laughing along with him.  If you knew me, you would know how ironic it truly is.  I truly never do shut the heck up!  Maybe the treatments will succeed in years what I could never do on my own?

So what are you “allowed” to say and not “allowed” to say to someone who has cancer?

Say these things:
• “You don’t need to write me back or get back to me.”  Cancer patients get inundated with, “how are you?” and some people actually get offended if you don’t reply or write back quickly.  You need to know that there are dozens if not over a hundred people asking the same question.  We can’t write back to everyone individually.  i.e. the Caring Bridge blog!  So if you let them know up front…  *whew*!  .  Telling us that you get it, really makes us feel better.
• “Are you tired?  Am I wearing you out?  I can get going now.”  When you visit, pay attention to the cancer patient’s state.  We get tired.  VERY tired!  Don’t overstay your welcome.  When it’s time to go, then realize it’s time to go.  It’s nothing personal.  Telling us that you get it really makes us feel better.
• “You want to hear what’s going on?  You want some gossip?”  This depends on the person.  If they were always “in the know” and are now out of the loop, this can make that person quite happy.  But it depends on the person and if they want to hear the 4-1-1.
• “Would you like to hear some thoughts about alternative means of helping you?  It’s ok if you’re not up to it right now.”  ASK, don’t jam holistic stuff into someone’s head.  While it may be quite helpful (self-hypnosis for me), it may not be right for everyone and if they’re not receptive – you’re going to be wasting your breath anyway.
• “You’re a good friend.”  “I like you.”  “I love you.”  Simple words that have a lot of positive healing power!

DON’T say these things:
• “What can I do to help?”  Don’t put us on the spot to have to think about something and then ask you.  Offer something specific (see the next page).
• “I will pray for you” or “my thoughts and prayers are with you.”  !  Only if you know the person is religious and will accept it in a positive way.  Otherwise it can come across as a mindless cliché.  And for many people, it has the aura of death about it.  Just know whom you’re talking to.
• “Did you try that ‘toxic cleansing’ regimen I told you about?”  “Did you read all that information I sent you about those anti-cancer vitamins?”  “You need to go down this holistic path.”  Ask them if they want to hear it.  Don’t assault us with something we’re not receptive to hearing.
• “And how are we doing today?”  Just because someone has cancer doesn’t instantly turn them into a 4-year-old!
• “You look great!”  One side-effect to chemo, radiation and post-surgical cancer treatments is that we get enhanced -detectors.  We know how we look.  If we know that we’re looking better, you can say it.  But after your hair falls out, you’ve been up all night and have thrown up your internal organs for the tenth time that day…  Don’t say, “you look great!”  The nonsense doesn’t make us feel better.

 

Friday, August 27, 2010 9:50 AM, EDT

You know when you ride a roller coaster, you've crested the big hill, start that first big downward plunge and you realize there's no turning back?  That's how I'm feeling now.  Yesterday was the first day I started feeling something new... pain.  Albeit, just slightly, but my throat is now "officially" sore.  It sort of feels like when you have strep throat.  Sore and scratchy, hurts a little to swallow and with mild flu-like symptoms.  "Right on schedule," my sadistic Radiation Tech girlfriends at LNRO tell me with a smile on their faces.  “You’re a big strong tough guy – you can handle a wittle saw throat, can’t you?”  (Actually – they didn’t say that.  They’re awesome!)  I've also started using the Radia-Gel on my skin because I'm truly now a redneck.  I have what looks like a sunburn on just my neck.  Hey at least shaving is quicker – the treatments have fried the whiskers right off!

And besides, I now have my mommy here to make me feel awww better!  Mom's in town for Gracie's 9th birthday party, to see the kids off on their first day of school (Kyle starts Kindergarten!) and for the Shalom Lake Norman Festival on Sunday.  My sister Nancy is in for the weekend too.  So I know I'm going to have tons of home-cooked meals prepared, frozen and left for me when they leave.  I'm betting 3-4 gallons of chicken soup as well.  They’re in the kitchen now arguing over whether to blend up and puree some of my food now.  “He doesn’t need pureed food yet!”  “But he will!  We should puree a whole bunch and freeze it for him.”  “What if he doesn’t need it?”  “He will!”  Are they going to spoon-feed me like a baby as well?!

The Lake Norman Mommies group is also weighing in with food.  I guess when you get cancer, people feel that the way to cure you is to fatten you up!  Not really – just kidding! That group is phenomenal. They came through and provided so many meals for us. With me out of commission and Amy tired after seeing clients all day AND taking care of the kids AND taking care of me. She needed that kind of help. Thanks LKNM!

 

So you know someone who has cancer.  Maybe a family member or friend and you want to help but don’t know what to do?  Well let me suggest this; cancer plays havoc with your daily routine.  Time gets lost, so offer to give some back!

• Offer to cook meals and freeze them in Tupperware.
• Offer to clean the house or do some laundry.
• Offer to watch the kids or shuttle the kids to activities.
• Offer to do some shopping or get the oil changed on the car.
• Offer to mow the lawn or run some errands.

It may sound like it’s not much, but in reality – it’s a Godsend!  And don’t ask, “what can I do to help?”  No one’s going to tell you and you make us have to think about it.  OFFER something specific:  “I’m cool with taking care of your lawn and yard during this time if that’s good with you.  It’s no big deal and it’s one less thing for you to worry about.  You good with that?”  “Yeah.”  SWEET!

 

2013-03-06 11:38 AM
in reply to: #4648559

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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer

gr33n - 2013-03-06 11:02 AM I would just show up. Bring a meal or 2 already prepared that she can just heat up. If you see something that needs attending (laundry, light bulbs changed, garbage taken out) just do it. Engage her in conversation. Make sure her internet and such is working. She sounds like the type of person that would never ask, and probably say no she doesn't need help, but I think she'll appreciate it. Also keep in mind as something that may have to be considered is her treatment days will be harder than other days. You're a good person Kim for wanting to help.

Yup, that's her.  Very independent, used to doing everything on her own.  I suspect along with the emotions of having cancer, she will also struggle with having to depend on people.

Our secretary is a former nurse so she is checking in on her.  I believe we're going to put together a rotating schedule of people to drive her in for chemo.  None of us want to see her make the 240 mile round trip drive alone.  She has a very elderly dog that needs care as well.  It's just a heartbreaking situation all the way around.

Thank you for your suggestions...they are helpful. 

2013-03-06 11:40 AM
in reply to: #4648541

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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer

Show bring food and see waht you can do to help. If you can organize otehr people to cook and then bring the food over at once in single serving containers to heat up that helps a lot as well.

See if they can give you a lsit to do shopping for them or if they feel up to it take them shopping.

2013-03-06 11:55 AM
in reply to: #4648541

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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer
BigFuzzydoug:  THANK YOU!  That was so helpful.  When I visit her, I want to be real and authentic and so many of those sayings are so trite and hollow.  I guess I just need to be open and listen and observe.   The 'what can I do to help' question seems like a natural question, but you're right--I shouldn't expect her to come up with things--or knowing Leslie she'll just say 'I'm fine.'   Thank you again for posting that!


2013-03-06 1:29 PM
in reply to: #4648541

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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer

Kim, my heart goes out to her and her family.

BFD, thank you so much for the input. It is something I will keep in the back of my mind.

2013-03-06 2:23 PM
in reply to: #4648845

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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer

You have to remember that people are different.  How they handle it are different.  And how they want to deal with it at that moment is different.

There were days I was just SICK AND TIRED of talking/thinking/worrying about.  The last thing I needed was someone to come up and want to start a dialogue.  I even told family members who were calling almost every day with suggestions and ideas to just shut it for a minute and talk about anything else BUT my treatment, or odds or success stories.

Sometime is just a long process.  Things don't just happen over night and all the talking in the world does nothing except perpetuate the worry.

BUT, there were times I wanted/needed to talk or bounce ideas off of people.

Then there are people that just fall off the planet because they don't know what to say or how to act, so they disappear.  Then you even get the few that almost seem to be taking it harder than you and you have to console THEM!

It was weird.  Some days I didn't even want to mention it because of all the unwanted attention.  Other days I would bring it up just to get attention/discussion going if I had questions or whatever.  I think it depended on the situation.  I never mentioned it a parties or something.  I didn't want to bring down the mood.  Heck, I probably talked MORE about it after the surgery and I got the all clear than when I was going through it.  I'm not the kind that like a lot of weird sympathy. 

Bottom line is, there really is no way to tell how they want to be talked to or treated.  What would have worked for ME, was probably pretty simple.  Something like "man, that sucks but we have faith you can beat it.  I'm here for you if you want to talk or just go out - whatever."  If that's sincere, that it's all good.

Mine wasn't that debilitating so I didn't need food or favors or whatever...  Sounds like the women in the OP has a lot of other issues OTHER than cancer as well.

sorry to ramble.

2013-03-06 2:44 PM
in reply to: #4648845

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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer
cdban66 - 2013-03-06 2:29 PM

Kim, my heart goes out to her and her family.

BFD, thank you so much for the input. It is something I will keep in the back of my mind.

Now if I can just find some help to break on through into the world of Publishers.  'Cause I ain'ts gettin' nowhere.  Probably going to have to look at self-publishing (Smash Words) or something like that.  Although my intention is not to get my manuscript published just for the sake of saying I wrote a book.  I want it to actually be distributed and actually be able to help people.

... But not being an existing published author or having that inside line really hurts in trying to get your first manuscript even looked at, let alone published.

 

2013-03-06 3:03 PM
in reply to: #4648541

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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer

Lots of good responses in here. One thing I did not see mentioned though. If you opt to bring her food, try to keep it tasty but bland and not very aromatic if you can (once she starts Chemo). Depending on the type of therapy and her response to it the smell of food can make her nauseous or even make her throw up. With the taste, people taste buds often change on chemo, so what they liked before might no longer be palatable. It sounds like you and the other staff are doing all you can to help build a community around her, which is a great thing to do. As others have mentioned, just lending an ear to hear what she has to say, and a shoulder to lean on when she needs it can be a huge help. (Disclosure - while I have not been through cancer treatment or had a family member who has been, I work in world class oncology clinic and see patient going through treatment every day. The smallest of things are often the most appreciated so even if all you can do is take her dog for a walk when she isn't able to - you will never know how much that means to her)

2013-03-06 3:19 PM
in reply to: #4648541

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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer

Lots of awesome advice here - my mom had a similar situation in terms of diagnosis, surgery and then chemo. Hers was the best prognosis possible but chemo was still hard and accepting the 'C' word was even harder - for her and for us as the family. 

Kido hit the nail on the head about other peoples' reactions - my one sister acted like my mom was dying and had to be calmed down a bit - it's not helpful, I think to be hysterical but everyone has their own way of dealing.  And the person, your co-worker is likely to go from highs to lows and her own ability to cope with what's going on will be different from day to day.

So, depending on just what the prognosis is - completely treatable? How often is the chemo? My mom went once every three weeks for several months - the day of treatment and the first day after were generally okay days, it was after that when it would really hit and she just needed to sleep and have things at hand to make it through the day.  

And, i mean, let it be - she's sick and you can talk about it if she wants but also come prepared to talk about other stuff.  If you're going to chemo with her bring some games - trivia cards, puzzles, stuff to do together but prepared that she may just want to rest.  (Now this is a surreal experience - going to chemotherapy with someone

Help stock her pantry with quick to prepare and eat things, maybe on treatment days if you're taking her offer to get laundry sorted out so that in the aftermath she doesn't have to worry about dirty clothes.  But other than that, being a friend and checking are pretty good too. 



2013-03-06 7:48 PM
in reply to: #4648541

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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer
ingleshteechur - 2013-03-06 11:52 AM

Hi there.  A teacher co-worker of mine was unexpectedly diagnosed with ovarian cancer 10 days ago.  She underwent a total hysterectomy without any of us knowing until after the fact. She had been in the hospital in Salt Lake City (120 miles east of my town) and is now home.  She will begin chemo soon so will not be returning the rest of this year.  This lady is completely alone.  Her husband is in a Salt Lake City hospice facility dying of heart disease. She has no family nearby and does not intend to move closer to anyone.  Now that we all know her situation, I don't know how to proceed.  I want to offer help in any way but not sure how.  Do I just show up on her doorstep?  Call to see if I can come by?  I've never known anyone that's been diagnosed with cancer--I want to support her and let her know I'm there for her but I don't know how to do this.  Any advice? Suggestions?  Suggestions on how to be helpful?  Thanks.


My wife has had several friends diagnosed with cancer over the last few years. What I have noticed is that people do one of two things. They don't know how to act and can't handle the diagnosis so they run away and either consciously or unconsciously cut off the friendship. Or, they go the other direction and really try to be there for the person, making themselves available to help out in any way possible.

I think that you should call her and ask her what you can do for her. Does she need groceries? Does she need a ride to a chemo appointment or doctors visit? Does she want to go out for dinner? Call more than once. The first time she might not want to impose and will decline you. If you call several times, she will understand that you really mean it and aren't going away. Her situation may change as well and she may realize that she needs more help than she originally thought.

One of the women my wife helped through her cancer was a good friend before her diagnosis but now is one of my wife's best friends because of the bond they developed going through so much of it together.

Good luck.
2013-03-06 8:11 PM
in reply to: #4648541

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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer

One of my friends recently kicked Cancer's butt! 

Another friend of ours set up a site for her at http://www.caringbridge.org/

whichmade it really easy to coordinate to help her.

She worked with her to put in when her chemo was and she would need help with meals and rides and when her horse needed someone to brush him (we knew each other from the barn.)

She did it a few weeks at a time (the friend who organized it- not the one who had cancer.) and sent us reminders that there were still open dates.  I know it really helped and it was super nice not to have to ask what she needed and convince her you wanted to help.  I think we brought her meals 3 days a week for 6 weeks plus other friends drove her and brought her lunch while she was getting chemo and brushed her horse.

The girl who organized it was very good with it- maybe if your school wants to rally around her you could set that up.  It just became normal rather than being akward b/c of the schedule and we got used to it.

Just an idea.

2013-03-06 11:36 PM
in reply to: #4649432

Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer

My wife was found to have Breast Cancer this past August at the age of 48.  I cannot offer any what you should do advice, but will offer a few comments that got to her.

As the big fuzzy dude said, no matter what don't talk about anyone you know or heard about that had cancer and is now dead.  I cannot tell you how many people she worked with that had those stories..

She did not require Chemo, but we still had to go to the Chemo side of the cancer center.  I would offer that by the looks on the faces of the people going though the Chemo, a loved one or a warm friend being there next to them was a huge comfort.

Oh and it's up to the perrson if they want it on Facebook.  I had to tell one of my friends to keep the comments off FB, it was our issue and not everyone's.  I am not trying to sound snide in this comment so please don't read it that way.

Joe

2013-03-07 8:56 AM
in reply to: #4648593

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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer
kmac1346 - 2013-03-06 10:29 AM

Different people respond in different ways to their diagnosis.   We had a family member recently pass away from cancer and at the beginning, she was open to people visiting.  Later, though, she only let one or two very close family members see her.  I think she wanted to keep some level of dignity and preserve how people remembered her.  Its important I think to respect the wishes of the individual. 

yep, my mom passed last fall from cancer.  she really wanted visits by immediate family only and it was really hard on her with her own family seeing her in that condition.  She was very proud and always strong an independent. Cancer effin sucks cuase it litterly sucks the life out of a person.  Anyway, everyone is different but I think most peole in that state don't want  alot of visitors.  Just ask what she wants. I am sure most likely she will be honest with her response. Bringing over a meal, soup, etc I am sure would be welcome.  Anyway, really sorry to hear that. 

2013-03-07 10:15 AM
in reply to: #4648541

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Elite
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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer
Thank you all for your kind and thoughtful responses.  Since we are a small community, we will rally around her.  Thank you for all the great suggestions--we will take it one day at a time, but never let her feel like she's alone. 


2013-03-07 11:36 AM
in reply to: #4649924

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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer
rayd - 2013-03-07 6:56 AM
kmac1346 - 2013-03-06 10:29 AM

Different people respond in different ways to their diagnosis.   We had a family member recently pass away from cancer and at the beginning, she was open to people visiting.  Later, though, she only let one or two very close family members see her.  I think she wanted to keep some level of dignity and preserve how people remembered her.  Its important I think to respect the wishes of the individual. 

yep, my mom passed last fall from cancer.  she really wanted visits by immediate family only and it was really hard on her with her own family seeing her in that condition.  She was very proud and always strong an independent. Cancer effin sucks cuase it litterly sucks the life out of a person.  Anyway, everyone is different but I think most peole in that state don't want  alot of visitors.  Just ask what she wants. I am sure most likely she will be honest with her response. Bringing over a meal, soup, etc I am sure would be welcome.  Anyway, really sorry to hear that. 

I am sorry for your loss.

So many good and kind people on this board.  Hopefully, with the collective positive energy, we  make a difference.

2013-03-08 7:42 AM
in reply to: #4648541

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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer

Update:  Visited with my friend yesterday.  In my usual, clumsy way I made her laugh a lot, which was great.  After I walked in and hugged her I said "Well, I guess I shouldn't ask how are you?" She laughed...a little later while sitting and talking I did look her directly in the eyes and said "Leslie, really, how ARE you?" We had an open and honest talk punctuated with chemo jokes (she's really hoping to lose her hair--she's always wanted to try the bald look).  She's also excited because now that the tumors have been removed she can button her pants again.  I was telling her that we will rotate driving her in for her chemo treatments and she said "I don't want you to see me puking!"  I laughed and said "Woman, I coach cross country...I see people puke all the time! It won't phase me a bit!"

Thank you all for giving me the courage to show up and make contact.  

2013-03-08 7:57 AM
in reply to: #4648601


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Subject: RE: How to talk about cancer
Bigfuzzydoug - 2013-03-06 11:34 AM

This is a VERY LONG response as it's just a cut & paste from my manuscript that I wrote about my cancer experience:

 

Chapter 10
How to deal with someone who has cancer.
________________________________________

There are six common and predictable response people will have when you tell them you have cancer.  Allow me…

1. The genuine, “I’m so sorry to hear that.  Might I ask what kind and do you have any answers yet about it and your treatment plan?” response.

2. The, “dude that sucks,” response.

3. The, “I will pray for you” or “my thoughts and prayers are with you,” response.

4. The fake, “what can I do to help you? (as they think, “please say nothing because I’m just saying this and I’m not really genuine about doing anything to help you” ) response.

5. The, “uh…  um…  er…” (as they back away from you because they think cancer is contagious) response.

6. The genuine, “I’m so sorry to hear that,” and then continues with, “I remember when my (relative/friend) had cancer.  He fought for so long bless his heart.  Right up to the very end.  I remember how frail and gaunt he looked before he died.  He went through hell and fought so hard – right up to the very end…  But you’re going to beat this!” response.

So let me say right now that depending on the person who has cancer, responses #1, #2 and #3 are the ONLY acceptable ones!  BE VERY CAREFUL WITH RESPONSE #3!  Only if you know the person is religious and will accept it in a positive way.  While it may seem like a wonderful thing from you, it can have the opposite effect in two ways:  It can come across as a mindless cliché.  And for many people, it has the aura of death about it.  “Praying for you,” can sound like you’re already gone.  Just know whom you’re talking to.

With #4; if you’re not willing to actually help someone in some way – don’t offer it.  And with #5; if you know someone who thinks someone with cancer is like someone with cooties – that it’s contagious – that you can catch cancer from someone else – demand that they buy and read my book.

And believe it or not.  The most common response…  By far…  At least four to one more than any other response is – NUMBER SIX!  People just have this burning desire to tell you their story or the story of someone they know/knew who had cancer.  They want to make a connection with you and relate.  OK.  That’s fine.  That’s normal.  But please, please, PLEASE – only do it with a successful SURVIVOR cancer story!

Let me make myself perfectly clear.  If someone tells you they have cancer, DON’T TELL THEM ABOUT SOMEONE YOU KNOW WHO DIED FROM CANCER!

It sounds simple, but I must have gotten at least 20, “let me tell you about the horror I witnessed this person go through with cancer before they gave out and died.  Oh, and…  Good luck to you!  You’re going to beat this!”  Sheesh!

 
A friend of mine, Larry, when he first heard that I had cancer, responded like this:
“Oh man!  Cancer!  I’m so sorry.  What kind of cancer?  How bad is it?”
“Throat cancer.  Just above my vocal cord.  It hasn’t spread yet so it’s not too bad.”
“Throat cancer?”
“Yeah.”
“As in when you get treatment for THROAT cancer, you won’t be able to talk?”
“Yeah.  Something like that.  They say the radiation will get so bad that at some point I won’t be able to speak anymore.”
…….. pause……..
“Ha ha ha ha ha!!!  You?!  Throat cancer?!  Unable to speak?!  How ironic is that?!  Ha ha!  Of all people to get throat cancer, it’s the dude who never shuts the hell up!  Oh man!  You know of course that we’re here for you with whatever you need.  But throat cancer?…  You?…  Ha ha ha!  Holy crap that’s ironic!”

To be honest – for me it was the PERFECT kind of response because I busted out laughing along with him.  If you knew me, you would know how ironic it truly is.  I truly never do shut the heck up!  Maybe the treatments will succeed in years what I could never do on my own?

So what are you “allowed” to say and not “allowed” to say to someone who has cancer?

Say these things:
• “You don’t need to write me back or get back to me.”  Cancer patients get inundated with, “how are you?” and some people actually get offended if you don’t reply or write back quickly.  You need to know that there are dozens if not over a hundred people asking the same question.  We can’t write back to everyone individually.  i.e. the Caring Bridge blog!  So if you let them know up front…  *whew*!  .  Telling us that you get it, really makes us feel better.
• “Are you tired?  Am I wearing you out?  I can get going now.”  When you visit, pay attention to the cancer patient’s state.  We get tired.  VERY tired!  Don’t overstay your welcome.  When it’s time to go, then realize it’s time to go.  It’s nothing personal.  Telling us that you get it really makes us feel better.
• “You want to hear what’s going on?  You want some gossip?”  This depends on the person.  If they were always “in the know” and are now out of the loop, this can make that person quite happy.  But it depends on the person and if they want to hear the 4-1-1.
• “Would you like to hear some thoughts about alternative means of helping you?  It’s ok if you’re not up to it right now.”  ASK, don’t jam holistic stuff into someone’s head.  While it may be quite helpful (self-hypnosis for me), it may not be right for everyone and if they’re not receptive – you’re going to be wasting your breath anyway.
• “You’re a good friend.”  “I like you.”  “I love you.”  Simple words that have a lot of positive healing power!

DON’T say these things:
• “What can I do to help?”  Don’t put us on the spot to have to think about something and then ask you.  Offer something specific (see the next page).
• “I will pray for you” or “my thoughts and prayers are with you.”  !  Only if you know the person is religious and will accept it in a positive way.  Otherwise it can come across as a mindless cliché.  And for many people, it has the aura of death about it.  Just know whom you’re talking to.
• “Did you try that ‘toxic cleansing’ regimen I told you about?”  “Did you read all that information I sent you about those anti-cancer vitamins?”  “You need to go down this holistic path.”  Ask them if they want to hear it.  Don’t assault us with something we’re not receptive to hearing.
• “And how are we doing today?”  Just because someone has cancer doesn’t instantly turn them into a 4-year-old!
• “You look great!”  One side-effect to chemo, radiation and post-surgical cancer treatments is that we get enhanced -detectors.  We know how we look.  If we know that we’re looking better, you can say it.  But after your hair falls out, you’ve been up all night and have thrown up your internal organs for the tenth time that day…  Don’t say, “you look great!”  The nonsense doesn’t make us feel better.

 

Friday, August 27, 2010 9:50 AM, EDT

You know when you ride a roller coaster, you've crested the big hill, start that first big downward plunge and you realize there's no turning back?  That's how I'm feeling now.  Yesterday was the first day I started feeling something new... pain.  Albeit, just slightly, but my throat is now "officially" sore.  It sort of feels like when you have strep throat.  Sore and scratchy, hurts a little to swallow and with mild flu-like symptoms.  "Right on schedule," my sadistic Radiation Tech girlfriends at LNRO tell me with a smile on their faces.  “You’re a big strong tough guy – you can handle a wittle saw throat, can’t you?”  (Actually – they didn’t say that.  They’re awesome!)  I've also started using the Radia-Gel on my skin because I'm truly now a redneck.  I have what looks like a sunburn on just my neck.  Hey at least shaving is quicker – the treatments have fried the whiskers right off!

And besides, I now have my mommy here to make me feel awww better!  Mom's in town for Gracie's 9th birthday party, to see the kids off on their first day of school (Kyle starts Kindergarten!) and for the Shalom Lake Norman Festival on Sunday.  My sister Nancy is in for the weekend too.  So I know I'm going to have tons of home-cooked meals prepared, frozen and left for me when they leave.  I'm betting 3-4 gallons of chicken soup as well.  They’re in the kitchen now arguing over whether to blend up and puree some of my food now.  “He doesn’t need pureed food yet!”  “But he will!  We should puree a whole bunch and freeze it for him.”  “What if he doesn’t need it?”  “He will!”  Are they going to spoon-feed me like a baby as well?!

The Lake Norman Mommies group is also weighing in with food.  I guess when you get cancer, people feel that the way to cure you is to fatten you up!  Not really – just kidding! That group is phenomenal. They came through and provided so many meals for us. With me out of commission and Amy tired after seeing clients all day AND taking care of the kids AND taking care of me. She needed that kind of help. Thanks LKNM!

 

So you know someone who has cancer.  Maybe a family member or friend and you want to help but don’t know what to do?  Well let me suggest this; cancer plays havoc with your daily routine.  Time gets lost, so offer to give some back!

• Offer to cook meals and freeze them in Tupperware.
• Offer to clean the house or do some laundry.
• Offer to watch the kids or shuttle the kids to activities.
• Offer to do some shopping or get the oil changed on the car.
• Offer to mow the lawn or run some errands.

It may sound like it’s not much, but in reality – it’s a Godsend!  And don’t ask, “what can I do to help?”  No one’s going to tell you and you make us have to think about it.  OFFER something specific:  “I’m cool with taking care of your lawn and yard during this time if that’s good with you.  It’s no big deal and it’s one less thing for you to worry about.  You good with that?”  “Yeah.”  SWEET!

 

Wow just wonderful list of suggestions.

 

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