A picture of a woman and beets

The Things People Say...

Since you have been diagnosed with cancer have you been amazed at some of the things people say to you? I sure have!

You have cancer?

I think one of the most common things I hear is, “You sure do not look like you have cancer!” It’s true. If you saw me in a group of people, you wouldn’t be able to pick me out as the one who is fighting a terminal disease. I guess it partly has to do with today’s treatments - the vast majority of my lung-cancer-fighting friends also do not look like they are fighting for their lives.

When most people think of someone with cancer, I guess we naturally think of a skeletal person who is bald and pale. I never lost my hair and I definitely have never been thin since my diagnosis. Sometimes, when I hear the comment, I just agree that it is true. I am incredibly lucky that I feel good most of the time and that people can’t pick me out in a crowd as someone with cancer. Other days, I want to ask, “What does a person with cancer look like?”

Oh. My grandfather died of lung cancer.

Another frequent response from people when they hear you have lung cancer is to tell you about their relative or friend who died from the disease. I think they say it because they are trying to relate to your circumstance in some way. However, I doubt many of us would say it gives us warm fuzzies to know of yet another person who passed away after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

And, what do you say in response to something like that? Trade war stories? If there’s one thing we in this community know, it is the grief we feel when we say goodbye to yet another of our friends or loved ones. Or, do you tell them that you plan to not be like their grandfather? Or just smile and change the subject? I generally just say something like, “I’m sorry for your loss. I know it is a tough battle, but they’re making huge strides in treatment options these days and I plan to beat the odds.”

Here’s what you need to do. It cured Aunt Mary.

I think I dislike this one the most, “Oh, you have to try beets. Just eat two pounds of beets every single day and you will be cured from lung cancer. It works! I know somebody whose Aunt Mary followed this protocol and she doesn’t have cancer any longer!”

Right. I remember when my dad was fighting lung cancer way back in the 1970s. Back then, it was all the rage to take a trip to Mexico to get laetrile. I remember my mom and dad talking about trying it. They didn’t, but they considered it.

In my opinion, there are way too many unscrupulous people and companies out there ready to take advantage of desperate people. It both angers and scares me. It angers me because the people offering these miracle cures are taking advantage of people who are willing to grasp for any rope held out to them. It scares me for the same reason. How many people have forsaken more traditional treatments (you know, the kinds offered by oncologists and renowned medical facilities) and died because of it?

Again, this is just my opinion, but I believe if these miracle cures actually worked, they would be used in mainstream medicine. Even if you want to blame pharmaceutical companies for keeping these magical treatments off of the market because they won’t profit enough from them, I don’t think doctors would go along with it. I think most doctors got into the business, the very tough business, of helping patients, because they care. If they knew beets or laetrile or any of the other miracle cures worked, most would recommend that treatment plan, even if the patient had to go outside of traditional medicine to get it.

The strangest one...

One day I was talking to a friend about a mutual acquaintance that had passed away. We were talking about who would be speaking at the memorial service and discussed what kinds of things we expected would be said. My mouth just hung open when my friend blurted, “You know. I don’t know what I will say about you at your memorial service.”

I’m not left speechless very often. That one left me with absolutely no response!

What about you? What kinds of things have people said to you since your diagnosis that left you feeling sad, happy, hopeful, or simply incredulous? Share with us in the comments.

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