The most important role a cancer survivor will face is not only chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. It’s the way others perceive you and the things they say. One of the many things I’ve heard were:
1. Your so strong!
This had to be the most inspirational, yet exhausting statements to ever say to me. I have always been strong. Honestly, being diagnosed with cancer was my one opportunity to throw in the towel and feel weak. I was always the friend/family member who played therapist even before obtaining my license in social work. I was the problem solver and the listener when others needed to vent. However, this one time I actually felt liberated and vulnerable enough to surrender to weakness. So as much as I appreciated looking like a hero, I truly also wanted to grieve for myself.
2. Are you going to die?
I’m sorry what? Yes, I have been asked this question many times during my journey. People truly asked as calmly as ever if I was headed to the grave. I didn’t know how to answer that question, but hopefully my dumbfounded look provided the answers. No, I’m not going to die. Are you?
3. My friend, family member and Bob from accounting had cancer and died.
Those around you want to connect in some way to your experience so they do it the only way they know how, which actually sucks. When someone is actually going through treatment or when family and friends are supporting someone with cancer the last thing they want to hear is a story regarding a tragic passing of someone you know. It may sound selfish, but guess what…. cancer is a time to be selfish. No two stories are the same and fate is different for everyone. The better choice is to listen. Empathy and a sense of connection can happen without the stories.
4. “I tried to mimic your head wrap and just couldn’t!” said the person with hair…and not even a cancer patient.
No… just no. I remember using head wraps because wigs weren’t for me. However, there is nothing wrong with a fabulous wig! But a woman really came up to me to say she tried to mimic my head wrap and couldn’t get it right. Well, perhaps it was my beautiful bald head that made it sit just right. I didn’t know what to even make of that one.
5. I want to hear your story [actually never lets you speak about it]
I can’t even list how many people reached out to me and wanted to hear my story. I felt valued for a moment and finally felt this great opportunity to express myself and the feelings that have been swimming around inside of me. However, we meet up and there is goes. I become a therapist. I sit back and listen. My story is never shared and they went home 10 pds lighter thanks to the free session.
These are just some of the things that people have said to me and it taught me a lot about what people expect from cancer warriors. They are looking up to us as some type of hero and want to somehow share in the experience.
Share any CRAZY comments you received when you were going through something whether it be bereavement, health diagnosis, or something important in your life. Love to read your comments!