Cancer – What to say

Cancer – if you’ve either battled it or have it you’ll know it’s awful. I’ve got friends who have been through it and come out the other side and unfortunately those that didn’t make it.
One theme which seems to rear its head is the behaviour of others, some people can react in a strange way. When you tell them you have cancer, some can’t get away quick enough and will do the patting of the hand and the poor you, oh I know how you feel. Really, you’ve got it too? Then they avoid you as if you have the plague and they might catch it. Then there are others who will do the patronising, wanting to do everything for you as though you are incapable of making a decision by yourself and there are some who will ignore and refuse to acknowledge that you have cancer.
So how should you act?

Well being there to help them is a good start. You can ask if there’s anything you can do to help. I spoke to the husband whose partner has cancer and the one thing she wanted was friends to pop round and just talk to her. Most said they didn’t know what to say, when all she wanted them to talk about was the mundane things in life, for example, the dog was sick at 4am, the toaster’s gone on the blink. Anything, just to take her mind off the fact that she had cancer. Also, don’t be a once in a blue moon visitor, regular short visits may be better than a single long one. Especially if they’re on intravenous chemo as this can leave you so tired. Some may be happy to talk about their treatment, others want to avoid discussing it; it really is up to the individual.
Also be aware that there may be times when the cancer patient doesn’t want to see anybody except close relatives only. You may feel hurt by this but you have to get over it and realise that the effects of chemo can take it out of you. The common side effect of losing your hair (including your eyebrows) can be hard to take, especially in women as our hair can be so important to who we are. So if they don’t want visitors, don’t take it personally. Respect their decision and say let me know when you do want visitors again. Send them text messages to say you are thinking of them but please don’t ignore them.

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