♥ Scroll down for a list of tips of what you shouldn't and should say to a cancer patient ♥
This page was compiled by Jodie to help family, friends & associates of cancer patients understand some of the difficulties an Oncology/Heamatology patient goes through, on a regular basis. It is often hard for many people to know what to say or how to talk to a cancer patient. This page is also a resource for medical staff to understand what kind comments help patients and what comments are not so helpful.
Many people reading this page have heard about the physical pain that cancer can inflict on a patient. They have seen the pain in a loved one's eyes and may have experienced it themselves.
A great majority of cancer patients will feel some pain either directly from the cancer/tumours impacting on organs, bones, nerves and muscles internally or pain from the procedures and treatment to irradicate the cells threatening the life of the patient. There can also be some bone pain associated with increasing the stem cell production of the bone marrow, in an effort to harvest and store stem cells. I would envisage that very few cancer patients don't experience some pain from the cancer itself or the treatment.
I have had 5 years of various types of physical pain in multiple places in my body, due to the Lymphoma itself, testings and biopsies or the chemotherapy treatment/radiation to save my life. There is also the regular pain of finding veins in the arms, hands or wrists for blood access for either blood count testing or the administering of various chemotherapies and toxicities to kill off the Cancer cells trying to kill you.
Often the cancer patient will have been given a blood catherter or device in their neck, upper arm or chest. The pain of the surgical insertion, once sedation has worn off, can be difficult. However, having a device for bloods, etc eliminates constant painful searches for vein's in the arms, hands or wrists.
I live with pain everyday, in some form or another:
The pain itself can create it's own fatigue and weakness, just from the body trying to fight both physical & mental pain.
You never accept cancer associated pain as your lot. You fight it, but in order to live as normally as is possible, you learn to heighten your pain threshold and rely on common pain relief medication alone or in combination to assist with the way your body is coping, post Chemotherapy/Radiation and/or post Disease.
You learn also, as a cancer patient that your body really has changed and the energy you once had has (in many cases) disappeared. Pacing yourself and modifying your activities daily with what your body can now cope with, is an important part of learning to live with the pain and aftermath of cancer.
Example: I used to be able to run 7 or more errands in one day, for family needs. Now, post chemotherapy/Radiation, I can only do 2 (at the max)....sometimes 3. This depends on the way your body feels on that particular day. Some days, I can do little at all and must rest as much as possible.
Grocery shopping can be extremely difficult and often a patient will need assistance carrying heavy bags or boxes. In retrospect, the treatments can be more savage on the body than the actual disease. But, without the treatments, many of us would not be here to have a life or enjoy time with our families.
There are also forms of emotional, mental and even a spiritual/soul form of pain, associated with going through the challenges of fighting cancer, doing the treatment and living with the aftermath of what has happened to your body and your world.
No-one can prepare you for the difficulties, the pressures and pain of fighting cancer. Except perhaps another cancer patient, keeping in mind that all cancers (and stages) are different for each paitient with many having different forms of physical, emotional & mental pain.
WHAT YOU SHOULDN'T SAY TO A CANCER PATIENT
Wow! You look incredible - maybe your cured?
I know this fantastic product....
(Patients are constantly offered products not endorsed by their doctors).
You need to go to this therapist, he/she helped my uncle...
(Patients are constantly being referred to 'therapists' by well-meaning people).
You got this because of all the additives in your food, what are you eating?
(People may like to suggest it was your fault that you were diagnoised with cancer...not always so - many cancers are not caused by lifestyle or diet).
You are not believing hard enough, taking the right products or being positive enough.
(All round, not nice at all).
You need special prayer from this special person.
(Some people do have a special giftings, but not all cancer patients want this over and over. God can & does heal anytime).
(Some people believe that big medical corporations are hiding the cancer cure from the general public. This is nonsense and can be hurtful for a cancer patient & their families).
WHAT YOU SHOULD SAY TO A CANCER PATIENT
(Emphasis on TODAY, some days they may feel OK and some days not so OK).
How is your treatment going?
(Even if the patient is not doing treatment, this is a good check-up).
You look like you are winning the war....
(It's uplifting for a patient to hear that other people are cheering for them).
I'll be your friend, no matter what you're facing.
(Be an empathiser and a supporter, one day - you may need their support too).
Can I come over sometime and help with chores?
(If you can and want to help, be very specific about what you can do).
Can I take your kids to the park or walk your dogs?
(For patients, this has got to be one of the golden gems, time alone to rest).
Can I get my church or group to pray for you or help you?
(This is also very helpful...sharing with your community group the patients story, ask them to pray and/or assist).