Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Things People Say to People With Cancer

During my stint as caregiver to my mother, I was privileged to accompany mom on her visits to her various doctor appointments. There were many appointments; but, as mom continued to hang on to life, the appointments dwindled. Instead of explaining why those appointments began to shut down, I'll share a few quotes that I heard first-hand from mom's primary physicians and nurses:

  • We didn't expect you to live this long (doctor who was treating mom)
  • Cremation? Why? You're so beautiful, I thought you'd go the open casket route (nurse).
  • You're still with us? (doctor who was summoned for mom's treatment for a second time within four months)
  • I can't look at the cancer count. I want to sleep at night (a doctor's answer to my question about mom's cancer advancement).

You get the idea -- out of the mouths of babes scenarios, right? Except the individuals who offered their opinions were professionals. What, then, can cancer patients expect to hear from friends and relatives who aren't professional doctors or nurses?

If you know a cancer victim, please don't try to excuse yourself from making stupid remarks to that person because you're not a professional. If anything, as a friend, relative, or neighbor, you might have a bit more insight into that cancer patient and become more compassionate. At least, that's the hope.

A friend of mine found that sometimes that hope runs slim. Craig Allen has cancer, and he is a realist about his prognosis, and responses to his current treatment option drive him mad. Literally. He's taking hormone treatments that provide him with physical reactions that are similar to menopause hot flashes. When he shares this news with female listeners, they often respond with:

"Ha! Now you know what we go through."

Excuse me? Your menopause hot flashes are similar to my cancer treatments? I'm sharing a link to Craig's justifiable rant. Please read to understand how a simple statement (like "We didn't expect you to live this long") can affect a person who is dying from cancer.

Thank you.