“When I have Cancer, Don’t Tell Me Not to Worry”

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When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you hear a lot of “Everything’s going to be Just Fine…Don’t worry”  The comment is  a  reflex reaction intentioned to bring hope and comfort to the patient. However it mostly lessens the anxiety of the “comforters” rather than the “comforted”. The cancer patient on the other hand is thinking ” Really..how can I not worry? Do you even get it?”

If the word cancer doesn’t bring worry, there’s something wrong with your head. Every cancer patient will have worries. The immediate worry in hearing the word cancer is “Am I going to die now” Even when the prognosis is good, treatments demand a sizable commitment of time, emotion, energy, money…there’s suddenly a lot to get done.  Cancer treatments is probably one of the toughest time in an individuals life. Even after completing treatment for early stage cancer, theres a worry about ” Is it going to be back”  In advanced and late stage disease the worry is ” How much longer? Is my family going to be ok?”

So separating “worry” from the word cancer is hard to do and an unreasonable expectation. The goal is to help a person live through this worry, get past it and be there in the journey. Denying that is a worrisome situation , is not going to help. Most people have no idea what the right thing to say is in a clearly wrong situation. If you want help a cancer patient that is worried and afraid

-be there to listen when they want to talk about it

-allow them to cry when they have to

“I really don’t know what to say” is an acceptable response

-its ok to be real and say “Shit..that sucks”..”but I’m here for you”

Lorry Hope has a written a great book  “Help me live” that talks about what to say and what not to say to a cancer patient Strongly recommend it to anyone looking for more advice on the topic.


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