5 Things You Should Never Say To Someone With #Cancer

pexels-photo-118033-2“Sometimes, the best way to help someone is just to be near them.” ~ Veronica Roth, Divergent

It was the last week of November 2012. Fall had officially settled in. The air was crisp and the sky was blue. We stopped for tea and coffee and then went to an appointment at a breast clinic. An appointment that would confirm or rule out breast cancer. I was nervous the whole drive there. My gut told me my body was in trouble.

My gut was right.

I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. The words felt like a drop-kick to the center of my chest. I couldn’t catch my breath. I could hear myself sobbing inside but nothing was coming out. My throat was in pain from fighting back the tears. I needed to hear every word the doctor said. I needed to know what this meant for me. For us. For my future.

After getting the diagnosis I needed time to let it sink in. As a couple we needed time to grieve too. So we took a few weeks to privately cope with the diagnosis, and then we shared the ‘news’ with a few friends and family. I assumed they would help me carry the load. That they would eagerly offer comfort and support.

Boy, was I wrong.

Instead, they saw cancer as a carte blanche opportunity to say mean-spirited and hurtful things to me. Things I never forgot. Things that permanently damaged our relationship. As time went on, I heard similar stories from other cancer survivors.

So in effort to help you to be a good friend (or well mannered person) the following is a lineup of things said to me, things I hope you’ll never say to anyone fighting cancer.

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  1. “People die from chemo, not cancer. I would rather die that put that poison in my body.” The person who says this has never had cancer. They are simply regurgitating something they heard or read somewhere. Usually somewhere they can’t even remember. While it’s true that chemotherapy can lead to other problems, not all treatments are alike. What we know for sure is that if left untreated, cancer kills. People take medication to lower cholesterol, get an erection, deal with depression, fight an infection or ward off heart attacks. If you would rather die than get treatment, you are welcome to do that when your ticket is pulled. Until then, keep this opinion to yourself.
  2. “Do you think your husband (or boyfriend) will leave you?” I heard this so many times after cancer. Men do leave (or cheat on) their partners during a cancer crisis. But men do it everyday without reason. Cheaters don’t need an excuse to act out. Nothing good can come of this question, so don’t ask it.
  3. “If you had faith in God you would trust him rather than medicine.” Another ignorant thing to say for many reasons.
  4. “God has a plan for you. He chose YOU because he knows YOU can handle it.” What this really means; God gave me cancer but decided you didn’t need it. That’s not only inaccurate, it’s a cruel and arrogant thing to say. Tell yourself whatever necessary to make cancer right in your head, but keep it to yourself.
  5. “You probably got cancer because you (fill in the blank).” There were many who suggested I got breast cancer because I didn’t eat sugar, eat a lot of red meat, drink alcohol or because I colored my hair. While lifestyle can contribute to illness, the odds are; everyone has an unhealthy habit that could lead to disease some day. We don’t blame pregnant women for miscarriages, so don’t blame cancer fighters for getting cancer.

End of article

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