31 August 2012

Cancer Do's

Recently I wrote (whined) about a friend who I ran into who seemed very concerned about me, but had been ‘too busy to call’. In my defence, she had twelve months in which to do it. In her defence, maybe she didn’t really like me. Regardless – it was just my opinion of ‘what not to say’ to someone who has had a really bad year.

Cancer Don't
There are other things you shouldn’t say to a friend the first time you acknowledge their canceritis situation. ‘How ARE you?’  is top of the list. Especially with puppy dog eyes often found in black velvet paintings. It’s like asking why the earth is round, or why there were two different Chris’s on the Partridge Family. It’s too complicated, and nobody really knows the answer.

The other thing to avoid is, ‘I’m SO sorry’. Sure you’re sorry – but not as sorry as I am! Also, saying ‘I’m sorry’ is the same thing you would say to someone dealing with the death of a loved one. It’s bleak, depressing, and way too passive for such a big disease. Avoid that one at all costs.

So according to me, the very best thing you can say someone who has been diagnosed with canceritis is this. ‘What can I do?’ Not only is this pro-active, but it can be answered honestly and sincerely. Often the answer is ‘nothing at the moment’ and ‘thank you for asking’. But at least the notion is out there that things that can be done, dammit!

Cancer is a very solitary business. No matter how many people surround you, you alone been plucked out of the nest like a baby sparrow, and plopped into the centre of a volcano. When people offered to join the party, I felt immediately stronger.

I never wanted sympathy, and I must admit, that I never really got any. I got a whole lot of ‘what can I do’s’ and ‘ call me if you need anything’s’, ‘how can I help?’, and ‘What can I make.’

I hope nobody ever has to acknowledge a friend’s diagnosis. But the likelihood is that you will. So might as well be prepared, rather than sorry.