• How do you deal with people that tell you they know what you are going through when you have cancer or lose someone to cancer?

    Asked by GENMAR47 on Friday, December 28, 2012

    How do you deal with people that tell you they know what you are going through when you have cancer or lose someone to cancer?

    I lost a double first cousin to lung cancer today. We grew up together and were more like siblings than cousins. She was 73 and had cancer for five years. She had all the conventional treatments and the cancer still took her. Her husband has been battling PC for 6 years. Half of the people I meet tell me how sorry they are for my loss and that they know what I am going through. I make nice and thank them when I want to say is "unless you have or have had cancer or have lost a loved one to cancer, how can you possibly know how I feel?" The other half doesn't make ignorant statements like that because they have been touched by cancer in some way and know the pain it causes. Thanks for letting me rant. I just felt the need to ask you all about this since all of you are cancer warriors and know what this battle is about.

    15 Answers from the Community

    15 answers
    • Peroll's Avatar

      I too have had similar experiences. The only thing I have found is to just be polite and then get away as quickly as possible. I know you just want to tell them off but unless it is a complete stranger that you will never see again that just doesn't work. I guess that maybe if I ever get near death then I can do it!

      over 7 years ago
    • SpunkyS's Avatar

      And they just might know some of the pain or sorrow. I usually thank the person, say then they know how difficult it is to talk about it, and then move on to another topic.

      over 7 years ago
    • nancyjac's Avatar

      I understand that you are in mourning for your lost love one and angry that she succumbed to cancer. But understanding the pain of losing a love one does not require that we have cancer. Would you feel differently if she had died of a stroke or heart attack or in a car accident? Having had cancer or having lost a love one to cancer does not give us exclusive rights to the pain of loss. Their loss is just as valid as yours and their pain is just as real. I know you are angry but please accept the condolences you are being offered as the genuine expressions they are rather than the offense you perceive them to be.

      over 7 years ago
    • carm's Avatar

      Genmar 47, I would have to agree with nancyjac 100%. I am an oncology/ end of life nurse. When we lose someone we grieve. However we grieve for OUR loss, not the one who has gone. That is not exclusive to cancer. That you have this disease makes it harder because the death of someone to the same disease (cancer) forces you to face your own mortality. You begin that, "there but by the grace, go I" mentality. In my line of work, 3 deaths a day is not unusual. Because you have a similar disease does not mean you grieve any more than I, only that you can relate more to the probability. To grieve is a personal ritual and I agree that no one could know how you do feel. Yet, in my circumstance, could you know how I feel? Don't take it as an offense, many struggle thru that difficult conversation and put themselves out there in an effort to comfort and bring you solace. Their wording night not be ideal, but their heart is in the right place. So sorry for your loss, Carm.

      over 7 years ago
    • packerbacker's Avatar

      Losing a loved one is painful, regardless of the cause, be it cancer, heart attack, stroke, etc. Maybe they have experienced something like that. I know I hate it when people say that they know just how I feel - No, they don't! But, it doesn't mean that they're not feeling pain, too. I would politely accept their condolences and leave it at that.

      over 7 years ago
    • BuckeyeShelby's Avatar

      Rather than answer your question, i'd like to simply offer my sympathy on your loss. You are in my thoughts.

      over 7 years ago
    • Tracy's Avatar

      First of all I am so sorry for your loss. Also this loss is so personal when you are fighting or have fought cancer. Having cancer such an strange reality to be in that when you lose someone to cancer it hits your soul (it is so personal). When someone says they understand what you are going through you want to strike out, how can you know what its like to be in this? Cancer is something that can leave you very raw but since they can't really know, have patience and let them express what they can. They do mean well, take care of yourself and know that we do understand. Tracy

      over 7 years ago
    • gwendolyn's Avatar

      I'm sorry for your loss. When someone says, "I know how you feel" they really mean they understand that you're very upset. It may not be the best way to express sympathy but it's usually well-intended.

      over 7 years ago
    • Beaner54's Avatar

      I understand how you feel and personally I think losing someone to cancer is different because most of
      our journey's are long....and we battle hard....it is disappointing when they pass on. My condolences.

      over 7 years ago
    • ticklingcancer's Avatar

      I honestly think people are just trying to help. My cancer is currently in remission. I have a friend who has terminal breast cancer. She's in rough shape right now to the point that they are now setting up hospice. I'm pretty close to her husband and I talk to him as often as I can. I've never spoken the words "I know how you feel" to him. I think once you have cancer, you learn how to talk to people with cancer.

      over 7 years ago
    • rosygren's Avatar

      It is neat to know that there are some people out there who gets it. You are right! There are those who don't understand what you are going thru, but feel the need to say something that might not be that helpful at the time. They mean well and want to be helpful, but do not have a clue of what to do or say. It is unintentional and they might be guided by some misguided thoughts. It isn't personal even though it feels personal in the moment. I am glad that you do have a group of cancer warriorsx

      over 7 years ago
    • mgm48's Avatar

      I lost both mom and dad to cancer. To make matters somewhat worse I have advanced PC the same stuff that got dad. So yes I know what you mean they just can't "get it" but you know they mean well even if they will never get it and you thank them and move on. There's no way for you to convey the emotions and bonds that cancer creates. I'm not sure I'd want to subject everyone to just how it feels. That's why I rely on my friends on WhatNext. Though most often we've never met, we share those feelings and bonds that come with the experience. May your 2013 be a tribute to your almost sibling as we wage war on cancer.

      Keep it positive and Smile :)

      over 7 years ago
    • Lirasgirl33's Avatar

      Hi GENMAR47, so sorry to hear about your loss. Sending hugs your way.

      I feel that the phrase "I know what you're going through" should not be said to anyone that's lost a loved one regardless of the situation. Losing a loved one is very personal and no one but you knows exactly what it feels like to be in your shoes. True someone could have lost a loved one as well but that shouldn't give them the right to say that they know what you're going through. To me it feels like that statement minimizes and almost dismisses your feelings. I think the best thing someone can do is, give a hug and tell you that they're there for you if you need to talk to someone. Your relationship with your cousin was unique and special and you have every right to feel the way you do. Just please know that a lot of people don't know how to react or what to say to someone that has lost a loved one. I'm sure they didn't intend to hurt you by saying that. They were just looking for something to say to provide some sort of comfort. And if you do need to talk to someone, just know we are here for you. Sending hugs your way.

      over 7 years ago
    • Bundoskip's Avatar

      They may never know what you are going through! at the same time they do not know what to do. I would not classify them as ignorant in that way, they are more skinned and tossed about like sheep without shepherd. In some way they are even looking for answers and probably worried about themselves too. Cancer is a debilitating disease and will weaken you and others around you. We just have to be strong as much as we can and find ways to fight back. get involved in a proactive group and encourage sympathizers to join you. It is a psychological black hole that will defeat you if you do not find a cleft in the rock somewhere, somehow. See how I fight and join me in the fight at www.prostatecancersvr.com

      over 7 years ago
    • notwillie's Avatar

      When we are grieving, our feelings are likely much more sensitive than at normal times. While we cannot control the (well-meant) responses of others, we can control how we respond to them. How about a polite, "Thank you for your care for me." Probably not a good idea to expect everyone who expresses condolences to have the right words, yet it is good to remember their concern and acknowledge it. Genmar47 I'm sorry you are hurting and I'm sorry for your loss.

      over 7 years ago

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