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5 Things Your Should Never Say 🤐

Cancer, it's so awkward! Especially when you don't have it, and are talking to someone who does (or d

not another diet

August 21 · Issue #71 · View online
a sane and thoughtful guide to permanent weight loss

Cancer, it’s so awkward!
Especially when you don’t have it, and are talking to someone who does (or did).
I chose to be public about my diagnosis. I don’t regret the decision, but it has subjected me to some insensitive behavior.
It’s tempting to let things slide and give people a pat on the back for engaging, but I’ve come to see that as enabling hurtful or bad behavior.
What’s in it for you? The opportunity to connect with someone who knows what a beautiful, glittering thing life is. Who has been made brave, and is prepared to love deeply. Cancer changes a person, often for the better.
Below are variations of things I heard while in treatment and some still today. My answers follow.
  • Any of us could die at any time. Yes, but for me this isn’t an abstraction. 40,000 people (mostly women) still die of breast cancer every year. What I face is not the same thing as someone who intellectually understands they will die some day. Do you become paralyzed with fear at every ache and pain? Do you have to be scanned every six months and then sit in a windowless office to hear the result? Then death doesn’t mean the same thing to us right now.
  • Have you tried XYZ diet? Fuck off. Sorry, what I mean to say is, please fuck off. A good diet is important for a whole host of reasons, but it will not fix cancer. Not ever. What’s really awful about this kind of unsolicited and unsubstantiated advice is that it puts the onus on the person with cancer to run down every rabbit hole, and if they don’t, well, their outcome must mean they just didn’t try hard enough. If you can’t see why that’s a terrible thing to do to someone worried about dying, you have a hole in your heart. I have the perfect diet for that.
  • Try not to think about it. Please explain in detail how I might accomplish this. I meditate, get counseling, exercise, spend time outside, have love in my life, and yet still, I wake up every single night worried about cancer. I’m doing the best I can, I suspect other people living with cancer are as well. It’s epically stressful, and I’m grateful there are any times I don’t think about it.
  • I read chemotherapy isn’t effective… (or any commentary on their course of treatment). I’m a bit homicidal right now, but I’ll try to answer this one rationally. Submitting to chemotherapy was one of the most difficult things I’ve done. I wept at the prospect for weeks, I was deeply and utterly afraid. I will never forget what it felt like to show up for my first infusion. What got me through was the certainty I was making the right decision to save my life and trust in my doctors. A person facing grueling treatment does not need to debate their course of action with someone who has read a few articles. This should be obvious, but apparently isn’t.
  • Are you sure you’ve explored every option? I am an engaged, thoughtful, and diligent patient. I take this process seriously, and any decision has been exhaustively considered. But even if I didn’t, and I simply accepted the first treatment plan given to me, that’s my right. I make the best decisions I can and then try to live with them. People with cancer are not obligated to justify their care to you, even if you love them dearly. Exception: when they forego the advice of doctors and opt for juicing or some charlatan’s remedy. Then by all means, say something, there is the real possibility they could die from their disease.
Sometimes we have to sit with the suffering of others. Offering non-solutions is a way of shirking your responsibility to comfort and bear witness.
I was referred to radiation straight from chemotherapy. I looked and felt awful. Still, when my handsome oncologist walked in the room I immediately tried to charm him. Even bald, worn out, and missing eyebrows I was a woman prepared to flirt.
Our essentials selves stay intact. Speak to that person.
The work is yours to do. To be present, and have a meaningful interaction with a person you care about.
Get to it.

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My picks 👇🏼
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