You don't tell them about your cancer. You become very selective of who you tell. I read a great line the other day.
Everyone in your life will hurt you. You need to decide who is worth the pain.
What do you say to these people
Sometimes it's necessary to tell people about your condition, but I hate to because they seem to always respond the same way. "I totally understand because my mother (aunt, uncle, sister, brother, wife, etc) died of cancer." I'm so sorry for their loss, but I want to hear success stories, not about the ones who didn't make it. What do you say to these people?
I don't have a problem telling anyone about my cancer, or the fact that I've had it 3 times. I think that by telling people that I beat it, and it came back, and I beat it again, and it came back, and again, that this might inspire those people to understand that not EVERYONE dies from cancer. More and more of us are surviving cancer everyday.
We are all different in our requirements for privacy and desire to speak about it. Your within your rights to not talk about it at all. For me, I shout it from the mountain tops that it didn't get me, and if it comes after me again, it won't get me then either.
That's just how I am though.
Boy, can I relate to this. I went out for dinner with a group of people last week, some of whom I was just meeting for the first time. The topic of hairstyles came up and I explained that my micro-short hairdo was due to chemo. The guy sitting next to me immediately launched into a list of all the people he'd known who died from cancer. I cut him short and said, "Let's not go there tonight." He reacted well and changed to subject graciously.
As always, I try to remember that people usually mean well but don't know what to say. I suspect he was trying to say that he knew how serious cancer could be and he was empathetic to my situation.
Having said this, I was temporarily stung by his comment. It's difficult to relax when you've been reminded of your mortality before the appetizers have even arrived.
Like Greg, I don't mind telling people about my cancer. I had a lady tell me that since I had testicular cancer I am now at risk of developing breast cancer. I just laughed when she said that. I think people mean well. Say you didn't have cancer and you found out someone you were visiting with was going through treatment. What would you say? I think that we are more sensitive to those types of comments now that we've had cancer. Honestly, I just ignore it. Other than "sorry for your loss" there really isn’t anything else you can say unless you decided to be a smarta$$. That works too....lol
When my hair fell out from Radiation treatment the first time, it fell out in a weird pattern. From the crown of my head down to my neck, over to both ears, Bald as a baby. I was standing in line at Sam's and this drill sergeant type fellow was behind me and in an extremely disapproving way asked why in the world did I cut my hair that way? I just quietly turned around and said, "I didn't cut it like that, the Radiation did". That kind of took care of that.
I don't tell anyone about my diagnosis. I was at the beach the other day (Clearwater, so beautiful) and took my shirt off for a new minutes (slathered in broad spectrum spf 30) and had someone comment on my scars. I told them it was a knife fight. I don't care if they don't believe me, it put an end to the conversation right there and then.
If you feel you have to tell them the truth, then my response to the "my aunt died" quote would be: "I'm so sorry to hear that, but I'm not going to die of this, at least not yet. Now, can we talk of something else? The weather perhaps or root canal without anesthetic? Something more pleasant."
I'm very open about my cancers and treatment. But each person is unique in who they want to tell. Many people are insensitive, I don't think they say these things on purpose, they just don't realize how scary and hurtful their comments are.
It depends on who is saying it. If it's a friend or family member (yes I've had one or two), I tell them how insensitive the comment is, in fact I once said "don't say things like that to me"
the words were out of mouth when I realized I didn't just think that.
I usually just say "I'm going to beat the heck out of this and live to be 101"
When I was initially diagnosed, I only told a handful of people (outside my family). I wanted to "have all my ducks in a row" before sharing more broadly - know my diagnosis, my treatment options, etc. In the short time I have told people, I am already in double digits of people who have told me who they know with endings I DON'T plan on having! :-) I don't have an answer for those people - depends on how well I know them sometimes. It's tough! The people who keep me sane are the ones offering help, prayers or telling me positive stories such as my friend's husband who has survived colon cancer 15 years after 4FU (the predecessor of 5FU).
I'm very open with my cancer IBC stage IV if you want to talk we can talk, I will also let you know that I'm not ready to die and if their something that I want to do I will. If I need help from someone I will ask but I will not go around all day worrying about what might happen down the road. Just keep your head up the road get rough sometime
Sometimes people just really seem insensitive. I have some people who call or e-mail whenever they know I have a dr. appt. and almost demand to know what was said or done. I just say it was for information and then change the subject. With the "death addicts", you could just say you don't want to focus on negatives and change the subject to the weather or cleaning products or last night's TV shows. Don't let them drag you down! And understand that nobody knows what your journey is like no matter what other experiences they know about. You are unique.
Here's one that has often worked for me..."Whew, thanks for sharing that! That bit of cheerful news will sure make my day better." Stops 'em in their tracks and still has some humor. I really DID appreciate the people who came forward to tell me that they had had cancer and were still here. Especially at the beginning when I did not think my chances looked good at all. So....that encourages me to do the same when I hear about someone newly diagnosed.
I think exactly how you worded it in your question is perfect. "I'm so sorry for you loss but I want to hear success stories." Maybe even add in, do you have any if those you want to share?
Many people don't know how to respond. It isn't about us, it is how that person deals with things in life. Trying to remember that made it easier to not take some things so personally. But I agree, I want only the positive in my life. No need to add in Amy extra anxiety or stree. I have dough if that!! :-)
it's really difficult sometimes to answer questions, or comments,, I know myself,, i usually say the the same words everybody else says,, "sorry for your loss"... not sure if that really helps,, guess it's just what we have gotten use to saying.. I had breast cancer in '94, had chemo, radiation, had no trouble, no real side effects, worked thur the entire process, Now I know that not all of us could do that,, my daughter could not. she's still not working., but is getting along great.. My mother, she had cancer a couple of times,, she's 88 yrs young! has a good life, on her own,, When i talk about my cancer situation,, it sounds like i'm talking about someone else. I am there for my family, thur anything they need me for,, My friends, who didn't know what to say or how to act around me, when i was going thur my cancer,, has now since gone thur it themselves or has someone they know go thur it.. So many people are now living long lives after having gone thur cancer and treatments, A person has to be intouch with thenselves, and with all the doctors,, If you do not talk with your doctor,, the doctors cannot treat you properlly,, so many people wont' tell doctors of things,, and therefore other situations arrise.I know for a fact that with proper treatments, and having faith in the Good Lord, we can all survive!
I know exactly what you mean!!! When I was first diagnosed, I thought it was a death sentence because I did not know any better. Then I started hearing the success stories and I got hope -- then strength and then a positive attitude that carried me through the "storm". However, I would get those people who just had to share the doom and gloom about a friend or relative who lost their fight. I don't know why they do it -- it is so insensitive. I have determined that their contact with the cancer world has been very distant because they don't seem to realize that we need to be nourished with the "positive" -- that we really cannot cope with the negative in our present state. It may be their effort to relate to us -- but I, for one, am not appreciative. I have learned to say that I like hearing just the positive stories. We have earned our title of "Survivor" and we should not let anyone take away from that!
I tell them , I'm sorry for your loss, but every cancer is different. They have come a long way in cancer treatments. Then I tell them about the people in my own family who are survivors, my husband, nephew, and mother-in-law! I point out that I am a cancer survivor at this point and I choose to be positive! They usually come around then. Sometimes the only thing they know about cancer is someone who died from it. They are trying to make a connection with you, even if it's a bad one. Be patient, we have to educate them:)
I think, if we still look good and healthy on the outside, and spring the cancer news on someone, it's a shock and a surprise, and they say the first thing that comes into their head, and it isn't always what we want to hear. I try to remember all the times this news was sprung on me before I had cancer, and all the dumb stuff I no doubt said. I'm very open about the whole thing, but I understand some people don't want to be. Frankly, I think this stuff is the least of my worries and I would rather pick my battles. My battle is with cancer, not dumb remarks. And that includes all the lemons-cure-cancer, asparagus-juice-cures-cancer people, too. They're just trying to help.
I say sorry, but I don't plan on dying. People can be so insensitive sometimes and not even realize that they are being that way. Just have to take it with a grain of salt and figure out some retort to come back at them. I don't plan on being a death statistic I plan on being a survivor is a good one too. They shut up when you come back at them with a retort and probably think the next time someone says they are fighting cancer. Don't be afraid to come back at them. Your a strong person who is going through a lot and you deserve to speak your mind.
This is a question that so many of us have asked here, and commented on here, and it never ever gets old! Like many others who have answered, I speak freely about my diagnosis and about treatment, because you really never know who it might help. Sometimes people just don't think when they speak. Some days I'd like to wear a button that says, "You can only tell me a cancer story if you leave out "they died" at the end."
How timely this is. Just yesterday I had my first experience. I had ask something from a woman who works at an information desk in public building I frequent. She answered my Q, then proceeded to ask why I always a scarf. A million answers running from kind to very nasty ran through my head. Instead I asked her a question, "Why do you ask?" I found her answer to be insanely funny - "Because it takes away from your good looks." But I contained my laughter, very sarcastically thanked her very much, and walked away.
But the whole incident bothered me. I am not thin-skinned at all - but I thought not only was she wrong, she was stupid and needed some attention. So a while later a went back, and since I didn't have it in me to tell her she was a #&*( stupid jerk, I told her the reason for my scarf and that what she said was hurtful to me. She apologized all over the place.
The result, I think, was that I felt better, and without being insulting and nasty to her, I maybe taught her something. And I also made her squirm.
As someone who has been on both sides of the "I know how you feel conversation",( having cancer myself now but having had two loved ones die at age 35 of rare cancers for which we still don't have much of a success rate in terms of treatment and having a son who at age 22 had another very rare cancer but who after surgery in 2005 has not had a recurrance) so I do really understand the desire to have people be positive and share the success stories as I struggle with keeping hope up myself. I guess I also do understand that most people are really trying to be understanding and helpful and often just don't know what to say that would be helpful. Mostly I just really appreciate being cared for and knowing that people are concerned for me and pray for me just as I do for so many others. I also really appreciate people who don't deny reality but help me laugh in the face of it and enjoy life as much as I can now.
I appreciate some of the responses you have gotten--they remind me that sometimes I feel like I should wear a sign that explains why I decided to "get my hair cut in this perky short do" after having it long for 45 years. :) so that I don't have to explain the story over and over. But then there are other times when people I barely know are just so incredibly kind and caring and offer not only their best wishes for my continued improvement but ask if they can do anything to help. I hold on to the blessings and try to ignore the rest.
Re. wearing a sign, I do wear a sign. I have a button that says "appendix cancer sucks." That way, people can either ignore it, or say the usual "I never heard of appendix cancer." Those of us who have this rare cancer are always trying to raise public awareness, because it isn't considered a "sexy" cancer (not my word choice) and therefore doesn't receive the research dollars that some other cancers get. I don't shove it down anyone's throat, but if they want to know, I'm glad to help spread the word just a bit.
When I was diagnosis with stage 4 Carcinoid Cancer in 2011 all I heard was stories from friends and family of people who died of cancer. So I started by telling them I'm sorry for their loss but I am
a survivor and staying positive is key can you help me because I need all the help I can get after that they understand and you might gain a friend.
Just seconding the comment of Onemancrew62. Our culture doesn't train us well on helpful things to say in awkward situations. People will often say the first thing that comes to their mind, without fully realizing its effect on you. By letting them know you prefer to stay positive and need their help, you are being a blessing to them. They'll know much better what to say next time they run into a similar situation.
Dr. Shani Fox
Sometimes I explain that cancer has become a chronic disease for some kinds of cancer, which it has. It can be treated and kept under control with medicines and therapies for many years. My first liposarcoma was found in 1995, second in 1999, and then 10 years cancer free. Since 2010 I've dealt with many tumors and have been treated with a variety of procedures/surgeries/etc. But the bottom line is that I'm still here - and I know that new medicines and techniques are always being developed and am hopeful they'll be one for me if/when the cancer reappears.