4 down 3 to go! Go check out the other participants, there is so much great stuff out there...my feedly is bursting.
This post is brought to you by the number -10 which is what the wind chill was when I decided we were not driving to Occupational Therapy and coming home to work on this post instead.
This post is also brought to you by the letter K because one Mrs. Kendra Tierney at Catholic All Year has requested that I write a post about what NOT to say to someone with cancer. I have a lot of thoughts about this, but I've held back a bit from sharing them because if you are a dear soul who has said one of these things to me I do not want to hurt your feelings because I just don't. The thing about someone having cancer, or a miscarriage, or an accident, or some other health crisis is that first and foremost our human impulse is to DO something or SAY something, and that is a beautiful thing. Almost everything I'm about to share is not offensive or even really wrong, it's just something that can be handled better when you have a clearer perspective. So, if you read something here and are like "OMG I think that was ME, I think I said that!", let me put your mind at ease--I don't remember isolated incidents or even think people who say these things are anything other than kind loving people who mean well. Some of these are things I've said to others myself. Kendra asked in reference to talking to someone with cancer, but these really apply to anyone facing their own health crisis or the health crisis of a loved one.
The following list is in no particular order. Please remember that different people respond to a health crisis like cancer differently, so this is from my individual perspective as a former(woohoo!) pregnant cancer patient. Based on my experience you should NOT say:
1. I Can't Imagine
You're right, you cannot imagine what this is like if you have not been through it and you know what? I don't want you to. Facing something like cancer treatment during a pregnancy, or cancer in a loved one, or whatever is so much worse than anything you can imagine but it is simultaneously not nearly as bad as it seems in a way that I can't explain. There are also so many blessings that you also will not be able to conjure up when you play make believe about what this is like. If you find yourself trying to imagine, or feeling like you should being trying to imagine please do us all a favor and stop. Spend your time being grateful for your own health and healthy loved ones, do something for your family, stop yourself from complaining about something in your life that is small in the scheme of things, in short--be productive. Be glad you are not in this situation and do something with that gratitude. Please also ask yourself, how do you expect the sick person or sick person's family member to respond? Think it through...because in polite society conversations are a two way street and when you say something like that the burden is now on the sick person to say something...but what can they really say? Not much. In fact, the burden is essentially now on the person facing the crisis to comfort you. Now, that is something I realize has to do with how I'm wired. When you say "I can't imagine" I hear it as "This is upsetting" and when someone is upset I want to comfort them. But really, that's messed up. The sick person should not really be doing the comforting. So, really, stop trying to imagine and just be grateful it's not you and then do something productive with your gratitude.
2. How Are You?
I know. I know. What else can you say? Not that. This goes back to that thought exercise where you ask yourself "How is this person supposed to respond"? Whether or not you should say this probably varies with how close you are to the person in question. If you are very close, it might be ok. Everyone needs someone or a few someones that they can really confide in about their difficulties. But if you are just acquaintances or just aren't sure? Don't ask. In polite society this question is a formality/nicety that is part of the social contract. Part of that contract is that we understand that most of the time we don't really expect a person to answer honestly. I know this one might cause a lot of upset but really, everyone knows someone who always answers with way too much information to this question and most of us strive to not be that person. Furthermore, you likely have a good guess how we're doing...if we're going through chemo or nursing a family member through some kind of difficult treatment the short answer is "not great". Because we know you know this, we now have to say the polite thing that is a lie, or we have to tell you stuff that feels like oversharing. You can probably guess pretty well how we feel even if you are following my advice and not trying to imagine. It's not a secret that cancer treatment sucks. What you're really trying to express when you ask "How are you?" is "I'm thinking of you" or "I care about you" or "I hope you're doing alright". In fact the best thing to say "I hope things are going OK" or something along those lines. That's what you really mean and it puts us in control of how much we share. We can just respond with "thanks" or elaborate on what's going on with us if it seems right at the time.
3. Why Didn't You Tell Me/Update Me/Call Me Back
Because I'm dealing with cancer and you're not. Seriously. Because something like cancer is all consuming and people want you to repeat the story over and over and over and over and it is exhausting. I started this blog to help me process what I was/am going through but also so I could cut down on how many times Michael and I had to repeat our story. I know you might feel left out and want to know the details, but the sick person or their caregiver is absolutely mired in the details and if they are trying to have a positive attitude they have to focus on that and not on repeating the litany of crap they can't escape. Please cut the people who are ACTUALLY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CRISIS SOME SLACK.*
*This is a good time to direct you to this excellent article about Ring Theory. The only quibble I have with it is that I feel the the patient's spouse or direct caregiver should be in the center ring with the patient.
4a. Are You Going To Try (Insert Alternative Therapy Here) Because Big Pharma Doesn't Want You To Know About It
and it's ugly stepchild:
4b. This Probably Happened Because You Vaccinate/Eat Meat/Use That Shampoo/Talk On A Cell Phone/Live By Powerlines/Brush Your Teeth etc.
If I accomplish nothing else with this post it is my fervent prayer that:
|Pardon Tina's french, but seriously? Seriously.|