What NOT to say to someone facing a Cancer Diagnosis

It Will Be Okay

How do you know it will be okay?  What does okay mean?  It means: satisfactory but not exceptionally or especially good.  And what does satisfactory mean?  It means:  fulfilling expectations or needs; acceptable, though not outstanding or perfect.  So based on that, how can you tell someone facing such a diagnosis that it will be okay; it is not fulfilling their expectations or needs.  NOT EVEN CLOSE!  No one wants to hear from a loved one or acquaintance something like this because you don’t know that it will ‘be okay’.  Nothing in the situation of a cancer diagnosis is okay nor will it ever be okay.  No matter what the end result is – it is never, ever, ever okay.  It’s never fulfilling anyone’s expectations.  What those of us with Cancer in our lives have to do; we have to adjust our expectations and try to figure out what will be fulfilling – somewhere and at some point.

This Is Just Another Hurdle or Bump In The Road

When I think of a hurdle or a bump in the road, it is something that you quickly pass over and you keep on going.  Even if you catch your foot on the hurdle or trip over the bump, you immediately get back up and keep going.  This is not even close to what a Cancer diagnosis is.  You don’t get to jump right back up and keep going if you fall down.  You don’t get to fly through the air, leaping with success over the hurdle and go on to jump the next one and the next one until you get to the all time self-fulfilling Finish Line.  No, you don’t get to.  You fall down and it takes every ounce of your being to get back up and you don’t take off running again, because your energy has been completely sucked from you by a blood sucking leech called Cancer.  You are lucky if you have the energy to continue forward by crawling.  See the problem here is; we cannot see the Finish Line.  Actually, we are scared to death of what that Finish Line might be.  So no, don’t tell someone that is it just a bump in the road.  This is a bump the size of Mount Everest.  Go ahead and hurdle that.

Stay Strong

But what if we don’t?  What if we crack and fall to pieces?  What if this unknown becomes too much for us to take and we need to fall apart for a little bit?  What then?  Are we a failure?  We have been told by so many to ‘Stay Strong’ and we couldn’t do it.  We have no choice but to remain strong in faith and strong in determination and strong in hope…  so you telling us to ‘stay strong’ isn’t encouraging.  It is impossible – and I mean impossible – at times to ‘stay strong’.  The thought of your life being ripped out from under you throws you in to the eye of a tornado.  You are spinning absolutely out of control and you have no strength to help yourself.  You cannot control anything.  You cannot save anything that you once knew.  It is all gone in an instant.  One brief moment and it’s all gone.  Losing everything so quickly – everything you knew, everything you planned for.  That would make the strongest person crumble.

God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle

So when you tell someone that, they feel as if their Faith isn’t enough.  As if their God isn’t what they believe Him to be because IT FEELS LIKE TOO MUCH.  I will tell you there are days, sometimes many in a row, that you cannot handle it.  ‘Handling it’ is a relative term, it means something different to everyone.  There have been plenty of times that I haven’t ‘handled it’; I have gotten through it.  That’s it.  I went forward and on to the next battle ahead of my family.  You tell someone this as if you know how much they can handle?  You don’t.  You don’t even know what you can handle and where your breaking point is.

How about some things you CAN say?

I am here when you need me.  So when you say that, be sure to BE THERE when you are needed and when you ARE needed, bring your best listening ears and your biggest, broadest shoulders.

I am praying for you.   Do it.

I hope your day is as good as it can be.   This tells a person that you aren’t naïve to what they’re going through and you know that it is a day by day journey.

I love you.  Mean it.

I am sorry you’re going through this.   Empathy is a beautiful thing.  I don’t find it to be insulting, as I don’t like anyone to feel sorry FOR me, but when said the right way, with the right body language; being sorry about a situation can be comforting.

I think it is human nature to want to be the “Positive Penny”, the one that is the all-time Cheerleader, but you know what – THAT GET’S ANNOYING.  It isn’t all positive – you cannot always make lemonade from lemons.  This cancer shit sucks – and to say how badly it sucks, is okay!!!!!!  Us on the receiving end, we want to keep it real.  We have to deal with enough crap, and fight enough battles, that when we are with those we love and that love us, just keep it real.  Hey, if a tear comes to your eye, it is okay with us.  This sucks and is a sad, scary, crappy place to be and to be scared or worried with us and for us, IS OKAY.  We won’t fault you for being human.  We won’t fault you for showing your emotion.  You’re not going to bring us down.  You’re real and we love real.

Many may disagree with me and that is okay.  I’m certain there are plenty that are in the fight for their life against Cancer that need everyone to remain positive, optimistic, etc.  We of course want positive energy but not to the point that it makes you uncomfortable and you don’t know what to say so you revert to one of the ‘stand phrases’ above.  Keep it real with us.  One caution though; don’t cross the line of dumping and that’s a totally different place.  Dump your emotions outside of the circle and Tim, he is the center of this circle and the girls and I are the next layer.  Dump out, not in.  That is a totally different topic that I will find time for at a later time.

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