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Here are some examples of what to write in a card if someone is going through cancer treatment: Every day you are getting closer. Your strength inspires me. So proud of you. You are a light to others. You are a rock star. You are my hero. I know you are stronger than anything. Remission Remission can come in different shapes and sizes. So happy for you and your family. You worked so hard. And I am so happy. My favorite day ever. You will inspire so many. Cancer is no match for you. You are more amazing than ever.
Take a deep breath and enjoy this moment.
You are an inspiration. Nothing compares to you. You continually amaze and inspire me. Here are messages you can write: Today is a good day. Here you are now: so strong, so amazing, so beautiful. For today. For this amazing news. Your news just made my day! Being a good listener is one of the best things you can do and that can be done no matter where you are.
Staying in touch and expressing support are the hallmarks of being a good friend no matter what the circumstances. If you read the post and comments you should definitely find suggestions on what to say. Best wishes to your friend. I love all your observations, actually. I see your calling out the behavior as incredibly helpful. Hope you are having a good day today. I stumbled upon your blog through a mutual friend and read it weekly.
You are an inspiration! It was nice to actually listen as well. As usual, it helps. We are both following along. Thank you…. It broke my heart when you discussed friends who have distanced themselves from you. This post made me cry; it is so poignant, beautiful, and — above everything — helpful to people who might have a friend who is seriously ill. So many people are supportive, but so many others just think about themselves in relation to the person with the disease.
I know we have never met, but I feel connected to you and read your posts regularly. There is amazing power in your words, and just know that your voice is being heard in the world. This is a powerful post.
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Gesine said it all in her comment. Sending you admiration and love. Delighted to hear spring is coming to Connecticut. This post brought back so many memories of discussions I had with my mom when she was sick. We said time and time again that there is nothing like terminal cancer to make you realize who your real friends are. People have a crazy way of surprising you — both good and bad. Different seasons of life call for different relationships…. Shut up!! I have stage IV colon cancer and fully expect to be cured.
I will have a second surgery consult in May to determine whether I am a good candidate for the surgery. After little over one year of treatments, his blood test came back showing no detection of cancer cells whatsoever! He has two daughters that he was able to walk down the aisle and now is experiencing being a grandfather as each daughter now has one child! My cousin just was not about to give up or lose faith no matter what the doctors told him.
Shannon, I hope that you continue to feel very positive about curing your cancer. Sorry, that came out harsher than I intended. Just tired from chemo this weekend and the neulasta shot Monday. This exchange is so important, Shannon. And in my self-involved tirade, I had completely forgotten who I was spewing at: my best friend who took care of her mother during the final year of pancreatic cancer. What a dolt I was. Thank you for understanding. After I was diagnosed, I realized that I and my husband would much prefer to be straightforward with information, rather than tiptoeing around the subject, and that perhaps my colleague would have been, as well, if I had probed a little more.
This is wonderful, valuable stuff.
Especially the part about making proactive offers. And standing ovation for the reminder that talking about alternative therapies, saying a good attitude cures cancer, etc. Hooray for spring! All I can say is Wow! Best post on what to say and not to say to anyone suffering really. Thank you so much!! Lisa, one of the things I always love most about these posts is your plain-spokenness.
So much truth, and kindness, in your teaching here. My wish for you is that you have more good days than bad. Spring has come to D. The cherry blossoms are finally unfurling after days of chill. Thank you, Lisa. I have a friend with stage 1 I think, but the bar seems to move breast cancer. Her situation is different, but it is still sooooo helpful to get your perspective so I can calibrate my responses! Thank you for your courage to be honest. It s a gift to all who are following your journey. Our lives are enriched by your generosity and kindness. Thank you, thank you, thank you for stringing together these words so superbly.
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You have taken such a difficult topic and spun it into gold. You are golden! Cancer touches so many of our lives these days, and I found your observations and recommendations so on point and helpful. However, I always felt that addressing them the best way I knew how, was better than not addressing them at all. When my mother was murdered 10 years ago, the most uncomfortable thing for me was when people did not say anything…I knew right then that they were uncomfortable and that was awkward.
I would never want any of my friends or family to worry about saying the wrong thing to me. That said, struggling with a terminal illness is , as you said so well, a whole different story and experience. You matter. You make a difference. You are loved. Dear Lisa thank you for this post. Your thoughts have been very helpful.
I have in the not too distant past had treatment for breast cancer. It was a fantastic support as much emotionally as practically, but the best bit was that I did not have to tell them what I wanted. Reading your post this morning has helped me plan the things I am going to do going forward to support her and while I think my instincts in how to go forward were on the right track your post has empowered me to be proactive and practical in my support.
Thank you again with very best wishes Alison. Your advice will certainly help many as they struggle with what to say. Like you, I am fortunate to have many friends who really care. They want to say and do the right thing. All the best to you. Thank you for your directness, thank you for your courage, thank you for your perseverance. I wish you many good days to come, and want to let you know your words are far reaching and have made a direct and positive impact on my understanding. Thank you for this. I will refer to it often as a guide when offering my sometimes awkward, but always well intentioned support for others.
I think you make some great points but I also think that people are just human. Some comments are egregiously inappropriate the ones about having a good attitude but others are people just trying to do something, anything. Though they might not be seriously ill, everyone has crap in their lives. Platitudes are always tiresome, cancer or not.
That includes my cancering friends. I want to add that my dad had a story about being in the cancer ward enjoying some gallows humor with the other patients, and a volunteer bitching at everyone for not taking their illnesses seriously. Before she spoke up, everyone was happy and, as I like to suggest, having fun with it. Afterwards, everybody was miserable, forced back into reality. Some escapism is quite helpful, and in my experience, most patients enjoy some gallows humor from time to time.
Be sensitive about that and jump on it when the time is right. You never know how helpful that can be. I am not sure how to have fun with a disease that is going to take my life and me from my children and husband. No one has to agree with me about it all. The humor between people at chemo is unique. I agree with you. Some people with a cancer diagnosis might squeak out a laugh at your gallows humour, for your sake, but after you leave to go live your life, it might just add to their pain.
Please leave those with a cancer diagnosis to joke amongst themselves. If you want to add levity — joke about yourself. This exchange reminded me of a very interesting blog post by Dr. Kate Granger, a young UK doctor age 31 who unfortunately is also contending with terminal cancer. She wrote quite honestly about her experience engaging her friends and family who do not have cancer in such zinging gallows humor that it definitely startled me to the point of wincing when I read her post last night.
More broadly, Lisa, thank you for this post. To be clear: in linking to Dr. But it is jarring when presented with a thread in which no participant with cancer has taken that tone and where the person without a cancer diagnosis is commenting. This is one area where I think the person with the illness should definitely be the one to lead. And no communication happens without the context of the relationship anyway. I am in the midst of chemo, after a double mastectomy in Dec. But my earlier humor has lingered with some friends who can take too much liberty still.
I guess I opened that door but it is like Jewish or racial jokes…hopefully others perceive the appropriate boundaries. Anything in the vein of look-on-the-bright-side kind of blows. Get a RED one! I spent t he 4th and 5th grades going straight home after school, checking to see if my dad had died that day, and then asking if he needed anything from me before I went out.
You can take it from there. Many years later, during my divorce, I joined a support group. Went home with many a bruise those days. I am sorry for all you have been through. I fear for the day my children have to do what you did for your father. Thank you for explaining your perspective in more detail; I think it is helpful to see where it comes from.
I have stage IV colon cancer and tend to agree with you. For example, I completely disagree with the following:. We all handle such news differently. In fact, three weeks before I was diagnosed, a colleague had to rush home because his wife was in the ER due to abdominal pain. You honor all of us by sharing your insights and advice. You are admired and appreciated. Every day.
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Thank you, Lisa, this is a big help to me. Sorry Dave, that is nuts! Just wanted to let you know that I listened to your radio show and read your post. What you have written and spoken about is so important. Thank you for doing it. I have to say that it seemed like Dr. However, explaining it away only ensures that the behavior will continue.
Not handling sickness or death well, seems to be acceptable in our society.
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As always, you wrote such pertinent and solid advice. I worked 3 days a week throughout chemo because I had to, but especially the week after chemo was often brutal! Fortunately, I usually worked alone so no one saw me at my worst, which is why they sung my praises. Thank you for all of this! I have survived stage 1 breast cancer and I do know how fortunate I am. Michelle is right on point regarding Dr. Then, the Costco detour… You made very good use of the final minute.
I am so appreciative of ALL you share through your blog and Twitter. You have educated me in so many ways. A helpful and wise post, Lisa. Thank you. None of these is justification, though. If one knows the person well enough to support them with a day-to-day problem, how much more important in your situation. So glad your real friends are solid, and I send my best wishes to you.
Thank you Lisa for kindly giving me permission to add your most recent post to my own blog. Lisa, thank-you so much for this article. It has given me a few things to add to my toolbox, and I appreciate it very much. My mother is living with metastasized breast cancer, as well as a separate lung cancer. We are doing what we can to make the rest of her life as full as possible. I am also very unwell. I have extremely debilitating allergies, to the point where I am on a regimen of 8 different medications to deal with the symptoms and the excruciating pain.
It is not life threatening as long as my epipen is with me , but it is life altering certainly. Love it. Maybe it will help me from alienating my neighbours and the cashier at the pharmacy the only place I can consistently go. I have a few, but we are separated geographically.
Your advice is so good, and it really applies to everyone, all the time. How to be a good friend, how to communicate with respect, how to connect and help people feel appreciated and unique. Love it! I must say, Lisa, you really hit some points that made my eyes well up with tears. I have been there, done that, and your post made it even more real and , well painful, but it was a good pain because I know now that I am so not alone in my fight.
I had some really good friends, I thought. My very closest friend was a nurse practitioner who I thought more than anyone would stand by me through anything. Then, one day she just disappeared from my life. We had been so close for so many years, there was hardly anything about me she was not aware of, we had shared tears and laughter, and both of us had been through some downright devastating experiences. If I had to guess who would still be with me today, she would have been at the top of the list.
She was not only a very well educated nurse, but also a HOSPICE nurse, so there is no good excuse for her to have just departed, without even the courtesy of a goodbye. To be fair, her mother had been a breast cancer patient, and she was intimately familiar with the ups and downs of this disease. Perhaps I reminded me too much of the mother she lost to this horrifying illness. Then there were the good friends, ones that I had done so much for in their ups and downs, and had done for me too when the times were tough in my life, but I had never had cancer before, so I had nothing to compare how painful it was to lose them at the time when I needed closeness the most.
I would say to anyone who has a friend who has cancer, someday the shoe may be on the other foot and you may have a disabling disease, cancer, if you must, and you will find out what it feels like for those you are counting on the most to just depart your life. It hurts, really hurts and I hope you never have to experience it, but if it should happen to you, remember me, and remember what it did to me to be totally alone, fighting the most devastating thing to threaten my life.
One of the hardest ones for me when my husband was dying of cancer and we had two small children was when someone would ask if there was anything they could do to help. Now I know what to do for others in similar situations — bring by groceries without asking, set a playdate and pick up and deliver their child etc…. My youngest cousin posted this blog on her facebook as she is fighting breast cancer. It really made think about things I have said and heard while going through my own breast cancer battle.
My husbands sister just died at the end of March of from stage 4 lung cancer after a year and a half battle with it. She fooled them all. As a cancer survivor, I new the importance of venting out and gave her a journal to right down her thoughts. My husband and daughter thought I was nuts giving her the journal to write in. She loved the idea. She often talked to me about the elephant in the room, her impending death in which I just listened. It was hard to listen too but I knew she needed to vent reality to someone to get her point across.
I loved her dearly and will miss her terribly. I challenged her to a walker race of the century. It made her laugh. I regret not being allowed to see her during the christmas holiday and giving her gag gifts that I bought her. No gathering of people on her behalf. My husband, children and I went over to her house two days after her death in which I still took the Christmas gifts we bought for the great neice and great nephews and the two gag gifts we bought for his sister and gave them to my brother-in-law.
He immediately put them in a place of honor that his wife would have put them. In a planter to cover the flowers that were sent by a well wisher. He asks questions about my cancer and I just tell him that each case is different and reactions to chemo are individual as well. Even as a survivor you try to keep positive for the ill and yet you know from experience, it is hard to listen to when you are going thru it. I guess my point is, even for the survivors, you can be at a lost for words for those who are now going thru it.
Oh, Lisa. I think this should be required reading, not just for people who want to love their friends with cancer in the best, most helpful way they can, but for everyone, all the time. I read it and felt such a wave of relief. Of course asking what is needed is best. Well, up until now. I am more grateful than I can say for the time you take to inform and advise and offer insight. Your gift to all of us astonishes me constantly. But by doing so you are posing people with a difficult challenge, and I think ridiculing or scorning them for that is inappropriate.
If you are a friend you want to learn.
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My readers do. I think this piece provides some. It IS a difficult challenge. But do you think the challenge is more important than trying to support your friend or loved one? I have been following your blog for a while because I think you are a great writer and I have much to learn from you. Until this week, I did not have anyone in my life for whom I needed this particular post…. Now I have a dilemma and seek advice from you and your readers. A co-worker of mine has been diagnosed with CUP spread to two secondary sites.
The long-term outlook is not good. He is a very private person when it comes to his personal life — in four years I have never even met his wife and young daughter. But at work, for work-related discussions, we have been close… partners in crime. It is further complicated by the fact that he is in my line management, so my daily mission has in some part been to keep him happy and do anything I can to make his day easier. He said he is compartmentalizing at work… So to talk about it seems insensitive but to NOT talk about it seems insensitive too. Has anyone been in this situation, or can you offer advice?
He may choose to leave the company at some point but he is a very strong type-A workaholic type and I suspect finds comfort in his office routine. It is where he has control. I appreciate the reminders about what not to say. This is education that so many of us need. It seems to me that the cancer is about the person who has it.
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What would make me feel comfortable or understand may be completely different from what the person with cancer may want or need. I appreciate good intentions, but I want more than that for my sister. I want to be able to help her, even if it is in just the tiniest way. Sorry if this post is a little off topic. Had a very concrete reaction to this particular blog about wrong things people say.
Background: my healthy, strong, beautiful grandson I was at his birth as he came to us that beautiful night on the side of a mountain with a strong circle of women surrounding my daughter was diagnosed out of the blue his momma found a small lump in his abdomen with a very aggressive and serious, rare cancer at age 15 months. Our formerly plump and indestructible toddler is a rail thin, bald but joyous and extraordinary two year old now.
This has also been one of the most gorgeous and beautiful times of my life. My faith in a beautiful design to the universe and every action of every day, every insect and human and waterfall has never been stronger. Every trite thing ever written about suffering is true. It does make us stronger, more loving, more alive, if we let it. So the hell what.
Cancer is the most spiritual, transformative journey you can ever hope to go on. And those strangers or friends struggling to say the right thing, those who drift away for their own reasons: I say look beyond their perceived betrayal, their ineptness and errors of speech or action. Cancer asks us to get in touch with something so much more important. Forgiveness, understanding, peace. Growth connection acceptance. We are all in this together.
Blog posts like this can make folks fearful of saying anything. If a wrong or hurtful or insensitive thing was said, it seems natural to strike back and say it was stupid and wrong of this person. But perhaps by far the better solution would be to stop the cycle of hurt, like a road block. Spin it to a higher place. Cancer asks so much of all of us. Why not this too? Doin their best. You are a special, special woman. Your blog is fabulous. Best of all good things to you. Thanks for listening. It is the most cruel, unfair and heartbreaking thing that could happen to your daughter and grandson.
Homa and Anon, I see what you are both saying. What Homa is saying is true, in her perspective. Since it is happening to her, too, it is about her, too. And Anon, you are also right, from the perspective of the child and his mother. These are two very poignant and diverse perspectives, and both are helpful for me. Well said…. Most people mean well. Not all can express their conerns, questions, and love in their hearts for your pain you are going through.
Everyone truly understands and feels your pain. They may being trying hard to express their heartache for you inside but it just comes out wrong. Yes, …. Some People are clueless with cancer , and or symptoms of chemotherapy and need to be educated. Some just feel they do not want to bother you , not realizing it feel like abandonment.
Communication with truths how you really feel, and what you are going through puts others in another mode to communicate more, be there and support you more. God Bless everyone in this situation and may everyone find peace and love in their hearts for themselves and others who truly understand the hell you are going through.
Most revolved around the fact that losing your breasts was no big deal to how breast cancer is now curable — like it was no biggie. I think what has happened in many of these situations, is that people I knew put their own fears and worries out there by making light of them. And you know what, what they said was VERY hurtful at times. I had many decisions to make and lots of info to process.
There were actually people whom I pulled away from because they were toxic to me. Although I do not have cancer am 73 years old two of my sisters have died from it, both at the age of Having been retired for 17 years my pass time hobbies have gradually shifted from the physical activities to the more mental ones.
My favorite during the last five years has been Molecular Biology of the Cell and in particular during the last three The Biology of Cancer. In this latter area, professor Robert A. However, to get on topic, recently we had new next door neighbors move in, the husband being a Dean at a mid-west University. Although we live in the Pacific Northwest nowadays with the Internet you can pretty much find information about anyone anywhere in the world.
About one month later his spouse sent us a email informing us he had cancer and they would soon be having a family gathering to celebrate his life. The Seattle area is one of the best places in the World to get treatment for this disease and we hope his therapy here drives it quickly into remission. We hope this provided some level of comfort to them, last week we learned from their son that his father has Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer.
Thats so true. Just cause mybhair grew back ppl assume im getting better snd the cancers gone. I tell everone to get educated on the disease brforecspeakingvsbout it. This article is so important, Lisa — and not just for those living with a cancer diagnosis, but for anybody facing a serious, frightening and progressive illness. Because if you looked that bad, it could create awkwardness or shock or pity — and who knows what might be blurted out then?
Yet another example of how so many, in the face of unpleasantness that they would just rather not look at, revert to the belief that this topic is somehow about THEM — not the person living with the unpleasantness. A common reaction among those who learned about my heart attack, for example, was some variation on the theme of their Aunt Sophie who had clearly suffered a far more interesting heart attack than mine.
Not helpful. Thanks so much, Lisa, for your efforts at educating the rest of us. As mere humans, we never really know where someone is emotionally on that particular day and time. That would hurt our friends worse, that they may feel forgotten. Thank you for sharing your insights and perspective. Oh Liza … Thank you Thank you Thank you. I thought it was my fault. I felt so disliked and rejected. Some were so toxic I have had to reject them! Your statement about losing friends…. I certainly do appreciate the very few real ones left.
And thanks to you, as from today I will live each day with my head held high and much lighter hearted and happier — come what may. Yes today is a hellova good day. I wish you the same.
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Wow, I wish I could post what I just posted. Being sad and stopped because I did not fill in the required fields……eracing in the process seemed to take all the feeling out. My niece is battling stage 3 ovarian cancer. She started chemo yesterday and I am glad that I read your article. It will definitely help me to help her better. It was truly sincere at the time but I get now what you mean about its vagueness. I recently went through a traumatic experience with my son. One of the most hurtful things about it was that none of my neighbors that have lived next to me for thirty years said anything to me and they knew what my family was going through.
My thoughts are that it is better to say something even if it may not be perfect. If it comes from the heart and is sincere there is no wrong thing to say. I think your are right ,I am a two time cancer survivor,I am guilty of putting my foot in my mouth too, but saying sometime is better than not saying nothing at all ,May GOD Bless your family.
I saw this while googling a cancer issue. All I can say is I have heard all those things and some. I had a mass in the middle of my chest 26 percent of body. I am here today to say thank you God: as for all those horrible comments I am still enduring it. I have since returned to work, not the same person I was before, mentally or physically.
I cannot do long days and work no more than 8 hours. The horrible comments , from coworkers I have been hearing…. I had limited friends prior to this and found out that even the best of them can shock you. I was in the hospital for long stays, would be horribly ill … I received a text after I had been there for three plus days saying, hi and blah blah Blah about their own issues… When I finally spoke to the person on the phone they said where have you been??? I said, the same place I was when I was dropped off last week, the hospital!!!! Now a concerned person would have called the hospital and or nurses station….
The answer I received was oh your still there…. I am struggling to this very moment with all that has occurred. I have 25 years in at my job , if I could retire now I would. This has changed me sooo much, I look at the world and people much differently.