Unfortunately with the way things are going these days, we will all know someone who is diagnosed with Cancer, disease or is battling another serious illness.
I happened to be that person for the past 2 years, so I wanted to write a bit of a guide on what not to say when a friend or family member tells you the terrible news. It’s a time that we are lost for words and a lot of people seem to have preconceived notions of a ‘sick’ person, which for some reason translates into they can’t do anything but lie on the couch.
Sometimes the worst thing about getting a diagnoses of a serious illness is the fact that your life pretty much just stops. You’re on this road moving ahead with your friends and family and dreams, and then all of a sudden a large section of the road falls into an abyss, and everyone else made it to the other side but you. You’re left alone, watching everyone else continue laughing and having a good time and yes they’re calling for you but you’re stuck and essentially alone. This had to honestly be the worst part for me because my life became consumed with illness in a way and I was fighting for my life.
This list, is a list of things I’ve heard, and I know other people have heard, that are not as comforting as most people think. We know you have good intentions, and we love you for it, but one friend put it perfectly – ‘if I hear this again I will lose my marbles’. So here are some of those things that we love and hate you for, that you may not realize:
1. ‘You’re not alone in this’.
Sorry for the morbid sarcasm but unfortunately even though family and close friends are experiencing my illness as well, they are still doing it from the outside in. No one is experiencing the exact same pain or any of the emotions that I am, so you can be next to me, but I’m definitely alone and I’d rather know not be reminded of that.
2. ‘How are you feeling? How are you really doing?’
If it’s said with the pitying undertone, it’s annoying. We spend enough time talking about our illness. If i want to tell you how I’m feeling, I will. Sometimes we don’t want to do it with everyone, and instead we just want to have a normal conversation. And you know what, sometimes we are actually doing well!
3. ‘Just keep smiling’ or ‘stay positive’ or ‘stay strong’.
Trust me most people with a serious illness for the most part are staying positive and strong, but we’re allowed to have times that we’re scared or upset. Your positive thoughts are very appreciated but those 3 lines are said by everyone. Sometimes instead of saying those things actually do something to make us smile or remind us that there is life outside the Doctors office/hospital.
4. ‘Your poor parents, I can’t imagine what they’re going through!’ sometimes accompanied by ‘when you have kids you’ll understand’.
Yes it’s very hard on a family, and we do understand that whether we have kids or not, but again we don’t want you to take pity on us. Well most normal people don’t want pity but there are some oddballs out there so for them it’s ok.
5. ‘You don’t deserve this’
I am pretty sure most people don’t deserve to be seriously ill, and if they did or you thought they did you’re probably not on speaking terms with them.
6. ‘You’ll make it through’
I sure as hell hope so cause I wasn’t actually planning on not making it through. If I have to be told I’ll make it through, it just reminds me there is a chance I might not.
I know that everyone is different, and this is from my personal experience. If you disagree, you’re free to do so but basically the above can be summarized by saying just don’t take pity on people and don’t expect them to spill their guts about what’s going. You don’t have to remind us 24/7 to be positive and strong. Just have a normal conversation with people dealing with a serious illness, give them an opportunity to not think about it/talk about it. It’s okay to sometimes just pretend as if you didn’t know about it and if they want to talk to you about it, they will.