If Cancer has not touched you

Then you can rarely figure out what to say to someone who has had cancer touch their lives.

Recently I had a co-worker come up to me and tell me in a very hushed voice,… “A friend of mine has breast cancer.  What should I say to her?”

What? Suddenly I am a cancer expert because my husband has had throat cancer and has been through the hell of treatment?  Actually I do know more of what to say to another cancer patient or perhaps another caretaker.

You shut your mouth and let that person talk to you.  You ask what it is you can help them with.  When Rich went through his treatment I asked for ready made meals that I didn’t have to fix after a 10 hour day of driving back and forth to Madison.  Neighbors did chores when I couldn’t be there, I had a ‘calling tree’.

Co workers would hesitate and then ask in a hushed voice.  “How is he doing?” I would answer, “One day at a time.”

What you do NOT say to a person who is a cancer patient caregiver or a cancer patient is “Oh don’t worry it’ll be okay.”  Worry?  Don’t worry? How dare you stand there and say Don’t Worry.

Yesterday at work a fellow that hasn’t been there for 5 months because of an injury came in to catch up on his training.  He casually mentioned to our boss that his wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Boss asked something and this guy, we’ll call him A … said “Oh no big deal, she’ll just have both breasts lopped off and then she can have fake boobs or get reconstructed ones. She’ll have chemo and radiation and we are good to go.She can go to treatments herself, no big deal.”

I was flabbergasted, first this A did not have to work, second, his wife was entering Hell and he had no clue. It took all of my effort not to walk up to him and slap him hard.

I heard my boss say “Well A, you are going to need to learn a bit more compassion in what you say and do with your wife.”  A shrugged, “She’s a tough ol’ cookie.”

HE was one of the people when he found out that Rich had cancer came up to me and told me that he’d had cancer but it was just fine.  A said, “See this little bitty scar on my cheek?” he asked. “Well there was cancer and they just cut right out and everything is just fine.  See? No big deal.”

If Cancer hasn’t touched you then it is hard to figure it out.  I doubt even that the oncologists truly know what to say except for what they have been taught to say.





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