7 things you should never say to someone who has cancer or better yet…How to properly use your brain before you say something stupid to someone with cancer.

idiots guide

I truly believe that people are entirely well meaning. I believe in the inherent goodness of people as a whole. (Also I believe in fairies, ghosts and that I saw Santa in a Delta terminal so take it as you will) I also believe in people’s inherent ability to speak without thinking and that much like the universe, stupidity can be truly infinite. To be kind, we shall call these instances of foot in oral cavity “brainless” moments. We all have them. I know I do. Having cancer though leaves me more exposed to the brainless moments of others, exposed like a flasher on the “N” train at rush hour. I am exposed to those people who want to say the all right things but oh dear sweet lord does it come out all colors of wrong. So I would like to dedicate the following blog to those wonderful souls, those amazingly well intentioned people who should perhaps consult with the following blog before speaking to someone like me.

#1. “How much chemo do you have left?” Oh my wonderful well meaning people, I love you all but trust me, most cancer patients could tell you down to the millisecond…to that last drip of chemo how much chemotherapy they have left. And they will readily share it. Happily. Cuz it’s kinda a big deal. If they do not share how much longer they have on chemo there may be a reason. But feel free to ask anyway as long as you like the taste of shoe leather and feet. Yum. Oh and do not be surprised if the only responses you get are a blinking of lash less eyes and the sweet cacophony of crickets chirping. You may be in for a real treat and get snarky remarks like mine usually are, like my personal favorite…. “till I die” or “for the rest of my life” or the ever popular “as long as the cancer lets me live”. Pick one, any one. I do not mean to be so snarky but that particular question only reminds me of how much this cancer sucks balls. I hate to be reminded it makes me cranky.

#2. “Why don’t you wear a wig?” or “Do you own a wig?” My question to you is, “Why? Does my baldness offend your tender sensibilities?” You don’t ask a MAN that question do you? Why are you bald? Why don’t you use Rogaine? No…Of course you would not ask that! Unless you have been recently dropped on your head and are still recovering. The truth is I own over twenty wigs. At first the novelty of it all was fun, kinda…sorta… But I have decided that wig wearing is every cancer patient’s personal decision. Some people will wear it all the time even to chemo. Which if fine for them, we all have our reasons. I chose not to wear them. Yes from time to time for fun I throw one on for an hour maybe longer. But usually I go without. I don’t like wigs. Even my lace cap was probably-made-by-fairies-knitting-gold-spun-diamond-fiber-holy-crap-that-was-freaking–expensive- human haired wig is bloody annoying. I have decided that my current baldness is a much a part of me as my big brown (I say hazel my husband says I am seriously color blind) eyes, the little mole on my nose and my crooked pinkie toes. I am bald. I have cancer. It’s all good. Besides no wig can ever look like my wild long curly hair that once bloomed from my scalp…so why bother? Also try not to remind me about my lost hair. I know it is missing. I promise it did not sneak off my head in the middle of the night to party with the neighbor’s hair. And it is not playing a ridiculously long drawn out game of hide and seek with me (because if it is no one told me and I am apparently losing). No I cannot tell you when it will come back. After chemo is over and please refer back to my answer for question #1. Honestly I really really liked my hair. My hair was rather like a first love. I forgot about what a pain in the ass it was and how it enjoyed torturing me on the days I least expected it. All I choose to remember are the good things, like how pretty it was on a good hair day, that it was long enough to cover my entire back down to my butt, and how nice it felt to be grabbed during…yeah my hair. I miss it. BUT as I like to say, better to lose my hair then my life. Sometimes that makes me feel better and then sometimes I just think this whole cancer thing pretty much blows. The following picture is my hair…this is why I don’t wear a wig…and why I would notice if it ran away.

me hair

3. “But you look so good”…This one is a statement. But again stop it. If I tell you I feel like crap, please for the love of all things holy and all things that glitter…do not say, “Really but you look so good”. Because you know what you are really saying…”You are full of poop because you look healthy, so you cannot be that sick. You lying bald chick!” Umm..If you ask or I just happen to tell you I feel horrible then accept it and know I feel ten times worse than I am expressing. I am sorry that the only way people believe me is if I walk around looking like Uncle Fester. You know complete with dark circles around my eyes and no makeup. Therefore you are telling me that in order for you to believe that I feel like the worst kind of lousy I need to look it. You claim to be smart…do I ask to see your brain matter? I have cancer that does not mean I lost my vanity. I still like to look pretty. Or as pretty as this damned disease and what God gave me naturally can possibly achieve. So please do not contradict me. I really really hate that. I will end up shoving my remaining glitter monkey sock up your butt if you continue. In the world of a cancer patient looking good does not necessarily equate to feeling good. But I never feel so sick that I cannot smack someone upside the head to get the stupid out of them.

4. “Have you seen….insert stupid sad cancer movie here”. And speaking of smacking the stupid out of people… This ranks up there as the “oh dear lord he didn’t give you a brain did he scarecrow?” question. WHY on this good green earth would you ask me if I saw; Terms of endearment, Beaches, A walk to remember etc. Really? Really? That’s like saying hey…have you cut yourself open and rubbed salt in it and rinsed it out with lemon juice? And please do NOT for goodness sake recommend I see this movie or that. Seeing Beaches, Terms of Endearment of any movie with someone dying of cancer in a cancer flick is NOT going to lift my spirits or move me with its sweeping cinematic beauty and wonderful Oscar winning acting. By the way watching actors portray people with cancer is rather annoying. Because they really never do it justice. Take my word for it they just don’t. By the way dear well intentioned person I seriously doubt you have any remaining brain cells left to even ask such a question. Conversation should never become that desperate. Note to self I will start speaking in smaller words and slower when addressing you.

5. “Why don’t you change your diet or have you tried the holistic approach?” I know you mean well, but there are only so many vitamins I could try, or organic blah blah blah… And if you are in my position (which I would never want for anyone) you can try all the natural approaches you want. Me? I am a science girl. I will stick with the science. My chemo works for me. My doctor and his team rock my socks and have brought me to where I am today. Which if you ask me is all kinds, shades and flavors of wonderful. By the way yes dear nature girl…I have heard of a coffee enema. Umm yeah, no thanks. I would rather not have anything up my rear, especially stuff that was brewed in a coffee pot for breakfast. I like coffee. Please don’t ruin it for me because that is a something that I would need therapy to get over. And may I say, “Ewww..double ewww squared to infinity”. Ick.

6. “Oh my so and so had cancer too and they… (insert the following): they died, they lived then got it again then died…they thought it was gone then died etc & so forth.” I too have known people with cancer and can tell you stories. I have made some great friends on many of my cancer groups that have lost loved ones to my particular illness and I actually want to hear their stories. BUT if you realize I have cancer (which I hope that you caught on from by my utter lack of hair and if that failed you noticed my huge port scar/mark whatever.. it’s ugly) and you barely know me, then please do not tell me about your great aunt’s best friend’s cousin’s brother who also had cancer but died because they caught it too late, but I was LUCKY to find it when I did. First off I don’t want to know. Secondly…there is NOTHING lucky about having cancer. There are good things that may result from it, but that is another blog. For now suffice to say keep your story to yourself. I am glad you feel you can relate. But honestly unless you are going through it, or are the caregiver or super close family member/friend of someone with cancer then you do not understand. And you know what..that’s ok. I do not ask for my friends to understand it, just support me. Love me and put up with me. It is less painful to understand. Because to understand means you have gone through it in some way and that is not something I want for anyone. You do not have to swap stories with me about people you barely know in order to relate to me. Really. I would prefer if you just talked about the weather or clown caber tossing…or the fact the national animal of Scotland is the unicorn (true fact and enough reason for me to want to move to Scotland).

7. “How much time do you have?” Geez oh petes…really? Time I have to what? Pee? Till retirement? Till my kids are in college? Till I lose my patience and end up in prison orange cause I actually did try to smack the stupid out of you and because no amount of beating could do this I end up in prison? How much time do I have? This question is rude and upsetting. It is something that should never be asked of any cancer patient. If I do not ask you how much longer you intend on being a complete and utter moron then you are not allowed to ask me how much time I have left. Because frankly I do not know!! I could be in remission tomorrow, I could die in a few months or next year, I could die when I am 98 and ¾ or I could die as pull my leg back to kick you in the shins and slip on an unseen puddle of water, fall and crack my head open. Who knows? I try not to think about it one way or another. So ummm yeah to this one I must say…STFU. Or to be polite… shut your blow hole you idiot.

I understand a compromise may be in order (fun fact of the day #2 spell check auto-corrected my accidental misspell of compromise to “come ponies” . I am beyond tickled. Now I am trying to use come ponies in a sentence. Sometimes I think I am still 5 years old. Really it takes so very little to entertain me). So yes back to my compromise, perhaps I should not be so prickly about these things. I do know that people mean well but I also think that people should use at least a small portion of their mental capabilities before speaking. Don’t you agree? Really that is not asking too much. Ok, maybe for some. I think I need to try Yoga. Find my Zen. Screw it I think I am going to find my Ben & Jerry’s and just ignore the rest.

So that’s it folks, friends and followers. Catch you on the flip. Thanks as always for delving in my little world of rants, raves and revelations.

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mskiasway
    Aug 13, 2013 @ 17:46:40

    I love this post and its realness. I can so relate and have been through the “But you look amazing” and I was sick as I don’t know what! Chemo was wiping me out. Ughh. Anyway Best Wishes to you.


    • monica923
      Aug 13, 2013 @ 17:49:06

      Thank you! I hope you are doing better! It is the most frustrating thing that everyone expects you to look horrible…if you don’t then obviously you are just fine! Ugh! 🙂


      • Mskiasway
        Aug 13, 2013 @ 17:51:46

        Yes I know I kept saying what does a person with cancer look like am I supposed to be a mess? I had to blog about that. But yes I am in Remission! Still taking it one day at a time.

  2. Kathy
    Aug 13, 2013 @ 17:56:57

    I think people are well intentioned but insert foot in mouth or maybe should have before saying what they just did. About a week or so before my mom died long time friends of the family came to visit. The one said something like – wow, you’ve lost so much weight, you look great. No. My mom looked like a walking skeleton thanks to pancreatic cancer. The conversation was painful. I had to leave the room.


  3. Alyson
    Aug 13, 2013 @ 18:28:19

    Amen! I’m sick of stupid questions, statements & assumptions.
    My personal favorite:
    “You’re so lucky they caught it early!”
    Really? I’m lucky? Want to trade places with my lucky ass & see what a diagnosis of pancreatic adenocarcinoma is like? Even at stage 2B, the stats are NOT in my favor.
    Love you, girl! Keep kicking ass & telling it like it is!


    • monica923
      Aug 13, 2013 @ 18:34:20

      They don’t understand our particular cancer, they think they understand the stage, but they really don’t. Feel free to smack the stupid out of people! You have my permission as long as you promise to take pictures. 🙂


  4. Chichina
    Aug 14, 2013 @ 16:26:44

    Treading cautiously here, treading cautiously……. I’m probably one of those people who would probably screw up…. I’d worry that not saying anything would mean I was ignoring the elephant in the living room, or pretending the emperor was fully clothed. It’s a grenade laden realm… Not to say anything and play it safe? or open my big yap and wind up saying something dumb ass…..What to do, what to do?


    • monica923
      Aug 14, 2013 @ 17:21:16

      Lol! You dumbass comments? Never you! Besides, if it comes from the heart it is never wrong. And if the emperor believed his was fully clothed then I believe him. =)


      • Chichina
        Aug 14, 2013 @ 18:04:13

        Oh believe me I’m fully capable of it although it never would be malicious……..All kidding aside though…..Life is tough….. I admire your grit. Giver ‘er hell….. and you do have glorious locks………I could never go bald though. My head is small and shaped like a light bulb.

  5. Chichina
    Aug 14, 2013 @ 16:27:44

    I was so nervous I said probably twice in one sentence.


  6. Chichina
    Feb 26, 2014 @ 13:55:15

    Worried about you. Hope you are ok. Hugs.


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