Okay, maybe I should rephrase that, as I cannot possibly speak for everyone who has cancer. It should read: ‘How to Act Around Becky Knowing She has Cancer’
Dealing with other people’s reactions to my cancer diagnosis, has been one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Once I made the announcement that I had been diagnosed with breast cancer, people started doing some really strange things and I found them remarkably interesting, yet confusing.
Many friends have said to me, that they just did not know what to say to me, and I get it. I have been around people who have had terminal cancer and I spluttered to say ‘I don’t know what to say.‘ I honestly didn’t! These people were dying and in my mind, I couldn’t possibly say anything that would add any value to their precious remaining days.
However, I do not have terminal cancer. I am not dying from the disease. I have/hopefully had (still awaiting results) early stage breast cancer. Yet people still find it difficult to know what to say or how to act. I have been around some of the most wise and confident people who have turned into meek mice upon seeing me.
Therefore, I felt it necessary to try to help people who just cannot find the right words or just do not know how to act when they see me. I have created a list of dos and don’ts. They are based upon the support I need (and have received) as well as some of the responses I have already experienced:
- If you are a good friend of mine or a relative, please do not rely on what I put on social media as a way of finding out how I really am. As much as it might look like it, I don’t share all the details of my wellbeing on Facebook. When you do not contact me, as much as my logic might tell me otherwise, it often feels as though you don’t care.
- Please do not tell me about your friend who had breast cancer and died. Without seeing my medical notes, you do not know exactly what type of breast cancer I have. Telling me about your friend dying really does not fill me with any encouragement. What I need more than anything is hope and encouragement.
- If you are not a good friend, please do not ask me intrusive questions about my treatment. If I wanted to share that information, I would. Please respect my personal boundaries.
- Please do not assume that all cancers are the same or have the same result. There are lots of cancers, some a lot more detrimental than others. They do not all result in death.
- Everyone who knows me, knows that I had breast cancer, so please do not stare at my chest area when you see me. I post pictures on social media; you are welcome to look at those at your leisure. It’s uncomfortable for both you and I when I catch your eye.
- Send me a text or a card to say you are thinking of me every now and again.
- Send me flowers with just your name. It tells me that I am in your thoughts.
- If you are a good friend, I invite you to ask me about my condition. I actually want to talk about it, it’s therapeutic.
- If you are someone I only know through social media, it is fine to post a heart, a kiss or a comment such as ‘I hope you are doing well.’
- If you see me out and about, it is perfectly fine just to ask “How are you?” and upon receiving my short reply, “I am not too bad thank you,” you are welcome to talk about something else that makes you feel much more comfortable.
- Please feel free to engage me in conversations that have nothing to do with cancer. I am much more than this disease and would like to talk about other topics. I am a whole person with many different interests.
- Please do crack jokes and have fun around me. My natural default is to laugh; it’s great for my mental and spiritual wellbeing.
- Please, please please, become cancer conscious for yourself and your family. Understand some of the tell-tale signs and be brave enough to go the doctor to get it checked out. Applying this knowledge could save your life. It saved mine.
With all that being said, I know that 99% of people who I interact with only have good intentions and act according to those intentions. Therefore, if you have done or said any of the above ‘don’ts’ or anything else I may have found uncomfortable, do not worry. I have not been offended; I have had to learn that the fear of cancer makes most people a little wobbly – understandably.
Thank you very much to everyone that has reached out in love. I appreciate it very much and it really has helped me to feel positive and hopeful for the future.