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Faith, Battle, Positivity and Other Irritants

I have always been a person of deep faith. I don’t go to church like I should, to say the least, but my faith is very strong. When I was diagnosed with lung cancer, I guess the idea that I would likely be meeting my Maker sooner rather than later caused my faith to become even deeper. Whatever the cause, my faith runs deep and it is very important to me. Studies find that many people find that their faith strengthens in the face of a cancer diagnosis.1 But, certainly, not everyone with cancer shares the same belief system.

“You’re in my prayers”

It is not uncommon for me to say, “I will pray for you” or “You are in my prayers” to someone who is facing difficulties. For me, that is comforting. I believe in the power of prayer. When I say it, I mean it with all sincerity. It is often the only way I feel like I can actually help someone who has been told their cancer is advancing, that they are losing their job, or that has gotten some other worrisome news. I never intend to offend someone with that statement, but unfortunately, it can and does irritate those who do not believe in prayer or the same God as I worship. It can feel like proselytizing to those who have different beliefs.

There are other irritants that we face as we deal with our cancer, besides the disease itself. Everyone, I think, has at least one thing that makes their skin crawl when they hear it.

My lung cancer ‘tribe’

I’ll start with what currently makes me craziest. It is a word that is gaining popularity. I hadn’t heard it until earlier this year, but now I seem to hear it all of the time. It is the word “tribe.” That word makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I tense when I hear it used. It is an irrational response to a simple word that is comforting to some people. For me, it is like fingernails scraping across a blackboard.

I think the reason I hate the word so much is that the first time I saw it used, someone was talking about how important their lung cancer “tribe” was to them … and I hadn’t been included in that “tribe.” It hurt my feelings a lot. So, now I cringe when I hear the word, even if I am part of the “tribe” being discussed.

‘Fighting’ lung cancer

A lot of people don’t like the words “fight,” “battle,” and “combat.” One person rightly said, “It’s not a fair fight,” when mentioning how much she dislikes those metaphors. I am sorry to say, I use those analogies frequently. I realize they may offend some people, but I’m not sure of a better way to phrase what we go through with cancer. For me, I am fighting. It might not be a fair fight, but in my way of thinking, it is getting fairer as researchers find new ways to kill the cancer cells. I understand where people are coming from who don’t like those words, but for me, they work.

“Stay positive”

Here’s one that really gets under the skin of almost everyone: being told to stay positive. I bet nearly everyone reading this article agrees that having someone who has never fought this beast tell you to stay positive and all will be well is not helpful. At all.

I am by nature a positive person. I prefer to live on the bright side of life. I run from negativity. But, even so, I do not want or need other people, especially people who have no idea what this battle (yikes, there’s that word again!!!) is like, to tell me to just stay positive.

Okay, your turn!! Did reading these irritants make others jump into your mind? Let’s talk about them!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Christina M. Puchalski, The role of spirituality in health care. Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent) 2001 Oct; Accessed 10/12/2018


  • Headdi
    11 months ago

    The most irritating to me was “Did you smoke?” If I had HIV would you ask “Are you gay”. There are lots of people that have never smoked that get lung cancer!

  • Donna Fernandez moderator author
    11 months ago

    Headdi, you are so right!! I can’t even believe I forgot to mention that one!! I think if we took a vote among people with lung cancer about what irritates them most, that question would top the list by a mile!

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    11 months ago

    @headdi -Totally get your frustration, with that said we learn to move forward in educating many on how to treat this stigmatized population. Positive vibes 🙂

  • vlnorth43
    12 months ago

    It irritated me when they would say you don’t look like you have cancer. What does a person with cancer look like? I have aggressive small cell lung cancer, diagnosed in September 2018.

  • Donna Fernandez moderator author
    11 months ago

    vlnorth43, I’m sorry to hear about your diagnosis.

    I totally agree with you. I don’t look like I have cancer either … I guess before I was diagnosed, I thought people with cancer had no hair and were gaunt. My hair got burned and frizzy, but I didn’t lose it … and I’ve done nothing but gain weight since my diagnosis…

    I’ve heard some people say that their response to how great they look is something like, “Yeah, well you should see what I look like under my skin.”

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    11 months ago

    @vlnorth43 It’s unfortunate when people say the wrong things at the wrong times. I agree you can’t just look at a person and assume they look healthy when they may not be. The same sentiment for people coping with mental illness, as a society we need to stop judging based on appearances.

  • Des-Tiny
    12 months ago

    I am with you Donna. I too have strong faith in God. From the beginning I was at peace with this lung cancer and spoke with God that I wanted what ever his will was for me I was okay with it. I asked God to give me strength in my trust, faith and belief in him and also in my physical body to continue working. Our God is an amazing God and he reigns. I have so many people praying for me and I also believe in the power of prayer. God is healing me of this cancer and has kept me from having any side effects from the eight doses of chemo and immunotherapy drugs and now I am on my 3rd week of radiation along with the chemo and still no side effects. I will tell everyone it is God that is doing all this. The enemy keeps trying to throw in other things and God is destroying those things. So when I hear some of these phrases they don’t bother me at all. Positive attitude is important and healthy. Fighting is that I am fighting this cancer with God because he is in control. I am a home health nurse and I see several cancer patients and we call each other our cancer buddies because we can relate to one another. When people tell me that I am strong or to stay strong I tell them that my strength comes from God. God bless all of us that are dealing with cancer and I do pray that God will heal us all.

  • Donna Fernandez moderator author
    12 months ago

    Thank you for your comments, Des-Tiny!! I really can’t imagine going through this without my faith, but with i, it is so doable!!

    I am so happy that you are doing well! It is my prayer that continues!

    Keep your smile!


  • MARM
    12 months ago

    Ah yes! “stay strong” Grr
    Said with the best intentions and wanting to support me however, I prefer,

    “you are so strong”

    Even if I am not feeling strong their belief in me lifts me to greater heights.

  • Donna Fernandez moderator author
    12 months ago

    MARM, isn’t it something that just changing words around a bit can make so much difference in how we react to a comment?! I totally agree with you, though!

    I agree that people almost always have the best of intentions. It is hard to know what to say!

    I agree, you ARE strong. If you’re fighting this disease, you’re strong!

    Hugs, Donna

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