In honor of breast cancer awareness month, I would like to offer advice to those who know people with cancer.
The tips apply to me, and probably anyone with any C-word, as I call it, because talking about cancer is not what I want to do. It causes stress, which causes cancer.
We are still people, with other aspects to ourselves and interests, talks about tests and treatments do not bring us joy, or help us live our best lives.
It’s a bad habit many have, to hear about the condition and want to share about every person who ever had the disease and their dreadful protocols, prognosis or death.
My new neighbor learned the hard way, after telling me about his wife gurgling and dying from the doctors’ attempt to save her in the hospital 30 years ago. Twice, in two days, he told me this story, the second time saying she died of breast cancer.
How could this be helpful? He started by telling me there are “things you can do for the pain” which obviously did not work out well for his wife, may she Rest In Peace.
I did my own research. I was a journalist. I know more about my condition than most people. I denied toxic treatments and deadly surgeries for 11 years now.
I know it’s difficult to know what to say, and many are taken back when my response to their attempt to help backfires.
A well-meaning cousin brought it up at a wedding, screaming above the deejay about how sorry he was, after he had enough beer muscles to mention it. That wasn’t the only time I was asked to talk about it at a party.
Just ask me to dance! That’s what I need!
My sister probably thought she was being helpful when she said “get a test” when I was leaving NY, knowing nothing about what tests I have or haven’t had, just judging me because I don’t follow blindly like a sheep. She didn’t know what else to say when I complained about my bloody shirt and uninvited guests showing up at my mother’s house before I was ready for public.
On the opposite spectrum, when I put on the right clothes and makeup, everyone thinks I am fine. I have been denied much needed help and told to take responsibility for myself by my family members who think I can work and support myself because I am not bald and in a hospital.
I am in pain most of the time lately. Although my protocol is working, there is discomfort involved. I currently have a open wound in the middle of my chest, where my body expels things that are not pretty.
I can’t date, I can’t drive much, sit for long, or lift my arms too high.
The moral of the story is don’t make assumptions. If you want to help someone with a c-word, ask them, “How can I help?”