Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On TwitterVisit Us On YoutubeCheck Our Feed
December 5, 2016

What your friends with cancer want you to know (but are afraid to say)

Original image: Flickr, Justin Sewell
Original image: Flickr, Justin Sewell

People with cancer are supposed to be heroic.

We fight a disease that terrifies everyone.

We are strong because we endure treatments that can feel worse than the actual malignancies.

We are brave because our lab tests come back with news we don’t want to hear.

 The reality of life with cancer is very different from the image we try to portray.

Our fight is simply a willingness to go through treatment because, frankly, the alternative sucks. Strength? We endure pain and sickness for the chance to feel normal down the road.  Brave? We build up an emotional tolerance and acceptance of things we can’t change. Faith kicks in to take care of the rest.

The truth is that if someone you love has cancer, they probably won’t be completely open about what they’re going through because they’re trying so hard to be strong.

For you.

[Tweet “The reality of life with cancer is very different from the image we try to portray.”]

However, if they could be truly honest and vulnerable, they would tell you:

  1. Don’t wait on me to call you if I need anything.  Please call me every once in a while and set up a date and time to come over. I know you told me to call if I ever needed anything, but it’s weird asking others to spend time with me or help me with stuff I used to be able to do on my own. It makes me feel weak and needy, and I’m also afraid you’ll say “no.”

2. Let me experience real emotions. Even though cancer and its treatments can sometimes influence my outlook, I still have normal moods and feelings in response to life events. If I’m angry or upset, accept that something made me mad and don’t write it off as the disease. I need to experience and express real emotions and not have them minimized or brushed off.

3. Ask me “what’s up” rather than “how do you feel.” Let’s talk about life and what’s been happening rather than focusing on my illness.

[Tweet “Ask me ‘what’s up’ rather than ‘how do you feel.’ #cancer”]

4. Forgive me.  There will be times when the illness and its treatment make me “not myself.” I may be forgetful, abrupt or hurtful. None of this is deliberate. Please don’t take it personally, and please forgive me.

5. Just listen. I’m doing my very best to be brave and strong, but I have moments when I need to fall apart. Just listen and don’t offer solutions. A good cry releases a lot of stress and pressure for me.

6. Take pictures of us. I may fuss about a photo, but a snapshot of us can help get me through tough times.  A photo is a reminder that someone thinks I’m important and worth remembering. Don’t let me say “I don’t want you to remember me like this” when treatment leaves me bald or scarred.  This is me, who I am RIGHT NOW. Embrace the now with me.

7. I need a little time alone.  A few points ago I was talking about how much I need to spend time with you, and now I’m telling you to go away.  I love you, but sometimes I need a little solitude. It gives me the chance to take off the brave face I’ve been wearing too long, and the silence can be soothing.

8. My family needs friends. Parenting is hard enough when your body is healthy; it becomes even more challenging when you’re managing a cancer diagnosis with the day-to-day needs of your family. My children, who aren’t mature enough to understand what I’m going through, still need to go to school, do homework, play sports, and hang out with friends. Car-pooling and play dates are sanity-savers for me. Take my kids. Please.

My spouse could also benefit from a little time with friends. Grab lunch or play a round of golf together. I take comfort in knowing you care about the people I love.

9. I want you to reduce your cancer risk. I don’t want you to go through this. While some cancers strike out of the blue, many can be prevented with just a few lifestyle changes – stop smoking, lose extra weight, protect your skin from sun damage, and watch what you eat. Please go see a doctor for regular check-ups and demand follow-up whenever pain, bleeding or unusual lumps show up. Many people can live long and fulfilling lives if this disease is discovered in its early stages. I want you to have a long and fulfilling life.

10. Take nothing for granted. Enjoy the life you have right now. Take time to jump in puddles, hug the kids, and feel the wind on your face. Marvel at this amazing world God created, and thank Him for bringing us together.

While we may not be thankful for my cancer, we need to be grateful for the physicians and treatments that give me the chance to fight this thing. And if there ever comes a time when the treatments no longer work, please know that I will always be grateful for having lived my life with you in it. I hope you feel the same about me.

Kim Helminski Keller is a Dallas-based mom, wife, teacher and journalist. She was treated for thyroid cancer in 2014 and had a recurrence in 2016. Read “When cancer returns.”

Related content

Listen to the podcast for this post.

 


save-50-percent-as-a-friend-of-roadkill-goldfish-2

221 Comments on What your friends with cancer want you to know (but are afraid to say)

  1. I think this is real life. Good someone said it. I know this is true for cancer patients because we all know,Cancer is the big scary word. Which sends you into a whole new,really scary new world. This is also true of other scary diseases,children born with illnesses or developmentally challenged. Also people suffering through any bad disease or a child suffering one. I know my child who is a young man know 21 yrs old.was perfectly normal and one day he caught mono and his life has been a nightmare sense. Worse noone knows why,even worse noone is interested in trying to find out what is wrong. He spends everyday in horrific pain,yet we don’t have nowhere to turn. All these same emotions I suffer everyday. Sometimes I feel I’m going to die from trying to pretend I’m not.I’m also chronically ill, which is devastating. However,having to be in severe pain yourself and watch your child suffers and waste away in his bed is okay ,I’m going to say it ,wsy overwhelming, scary and sometimes feels unbearable. Sometimes I wonder how much longer I can put a smile on and try to pretend to have anything resembling life. Watching someone suffer every day for almost ten years and not having any hope of finding help. Noone even points me in a direction. If we do go to a Dr. Which we’ve been to many different kinds,they take no interest in trying to find what’s wrong. Every time is a new trauma,a new disappointment. If not for my faith in God ,I could have never survived. I wonder how much longer I can survive. I need someone to at least try and find out why my don suffers so much pain,that he screams in pain. Often times I’m hurting so bad ,I can’t see about him and am helpless to know how to hell him. So I understand,I have Lupus a formbof cancer but I ignore it as painful as it is,if at all possible to crawl. Why, my son ,undiagnosed screaming in pain. Utterly deppressed, personally I don’t know how he stands it. I could face my plight do much better,if he was diagnosed, getting some treatment or we even knew what was wrong. Yet like the lady says I try to go on paint on a smile. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to crumble inside and people think I’m strong. No I’m weak, terrified,sick and if not for God could not carry on. I can’t enjoy my good days ,because call my sons are bad. I need to know how to get HELP for him,surely sonewhere ,someone should care?

    • Thank you for sharing your story, Angela. I am so sorry you’ve had such a rough road. Please know that there are THOUSANDS of us who are empathizing with you right now. You and your son are also being prayed for by others who follow this blog.

  2. At the age of 30 I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. I was single and living 4 hours away from my family. I made it through a double mastectomy, chemo and multiple reconstruction surgeries with the support from my family although they couldn’t be there with me often, and a few wonderful coworkers. Since my diagnosis and treatment my family has had a hard time understanding the “new” me. I believe it’s because they don’t truly understand what I have been through. I love harder, and appreciate things more, I will not tolerate bs, I can see that there is a bigger picture in life and I don’t stress out about the little things. Your story hit the nail on its head for me and made me cry and fro that I thank you. God bless you Kim

    • Thank you for sharing your story, Alicia. You made me laugh with your comment about not tolerating BS. I think cancer did the same thing to me – I’m very selfish about my energy levels, and dealing with BS and other ridiculously saps too much of it. I’m glad my post touched your heart, friend.

  3. I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer over 11 years ago. No treatments have helped me. This article definitely hit a nerve with me. I could relate to all of it…except I do
    n’t have a husband and my kids are grown but I do have grandkids that stay with me a lot.

  4. I found this on my friend’s, Anne , Facebook page. I haven’t been sure how to deal with her situation without offending or worrying her unnecessarily. These pointers may prove invaluable for me. I thank her for posting it and you for writing it.

  5. I would a first like to thank a good friend that has turned me on to this, David Hillgass. I have been through my share of hospitals in my life time. But now I am with my fiancé, Lorraine Kerr who is going through 3rd Stage Breast Cancer. And I know that this is still only the BEGINING of her Journey. My plans are to be with her forever. Not to just be her nurse. But to be together for the 2 of us to be 1. When I went through my Journey, I had to cover it alone. So I just taught myself to hide it away. And because my head was cracked from the bike wreck, it was easy for me just to forget all the shit (if you will please excuse my language) that I went through. But with Lorraine it is totally different. When she kind of explodes at me I just thought that she was going to get tired of me and brush me away. But with this here, it has taken a ton of sorrows away. I would like to thank all of you that have put this together. And David for helping me by giving this to me. God Bless Everone.

    • Hi Jerry,

      I am so glad you found this article, and I am blessed to know about your commitment to Lorraine. The caregiver road is not an easy one, but please know that your efforts and support are invaluable. I prayed for you and Lorraine this morning, and I asked God to give the two of you peace, wise medical professionals, healing and joy.

      Hang in there, my friend.

  6. As I’m going thru my journey I find this article enlightening….. Especially #3. I get so sick of being babied… I want to feel normal! I want to forget as much as I can especially when I feel good! Good job on this article! Thank you!

  7. In May, 2012, my wife and I paid $99 each to have the seven LifeLine exams. I especially wanted a carotid artery exam since a good friend had just had a crippling stroke. Two weeks later the mail arrived with the results. The carotid arteries were terrific, but a tumor was spotted in my neck near the Adam’s Apple. It turned out to be Thyroid Cancer. In August, I had five hours of surgery instead of the estimated 1 1/2 hours because of bleeding and removal difficulties. Two months later I had radiation therapy (RAI.)

    I am glad to be designated as cancer-free. I try not to let any haunting fear of a return rule my life. Thyroid cancer has mistakenly been called the “good cancer.” It is designated as such because of the high survival percentage. There is no such thing as”good cancer” in this universe. The effects of being on meds and being without a built-in thermostat and remote control are at times unbelievably miserable.

    The plus advantages come from being able to have a real conversation with someone who is going through the turmoil. I am able to really listen and contribute instead of being uncomfortable and wanting to change the subject quickly. When someone floods your conversation with “uh-huh; yeah; know what ya mean; let me know if…,” that is when we are better off being alone.

  8. Helpful article for certain,
    I have Stage 4 Appendix Cancer where chemo and radiation does not work on my version called DPAM, 2 recurrance, 8 massive abdominal surgeries with severe complications in 4 of them…I am at that point this article does not cover but is helpful overall…in my opinion it is where the reality of terminal cancer REALLY sets in… I have no more medical options, theres is nothing left to take and CT scans are harmful and used only in extreme cases. If there were an option, disability or the Veterans Administration would certainly not pay to save my life…been down that road. No one is rich in my family unfortunately.
    How I handle it, I am just honest and open with those around me, alot of the time I end up making people laugh and smile alot. Knowing your existance makes another feel good is priceless when you have any type of terminal disease. It is a moment of normalcy you can create so I also draw cartoons describing different medical experiences one goes thru that a healthy person may never have.
    In 2007 I was healthy, making 70k a year making video games and playing paintball with people half my age in the noon day Texas sun.
    2015 out of options, disabled, ex took home and car also stole my military service dog (7 court appearences and $5,000 in attorney fees…I got my bestest buddy back but malnourished with a huge abdominal operation scar), 30 year career as a Senior Artist/3D Animator gone (after my diagnosis I began to be treated differently so go figure), half the people I knew no longer stay in touch including some close family, VA wrote me off as ‘Catastrophic’ so no help there. It gets worse, now my body rebels against me by randomly creating bowel blockages, kidney stones, and sudden dehydration and loss of motor control. All emergency room visits at random hours of darkness. Bleu my service dog now has something Maul Seizures so $300 of my disability now goe to anti seizure meds to keep my closet companion alive day to day. Life has become and gets more challenging as the disease moves on but it is survivable for a time.
    My dreams and goals had all but come true, my life was above normal awesome with a mate that looked like a super model…now, seemingly in a blink of the eye I am trying to describe what life can become through no action or fault of your own. Take nothing for granted and live life the best you can. Turn off spell check and jump in a few puddles occasionally,laugh when the catsup bottle farts. Those delightful memorys and others, come in handy later when you are hooked up to numerous machines for 4 months in a cancer ward.
    I’m not afraid of Death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens. 😉

    • You are a blessing to those of us who just got to meet you through your post. Your service dog thinks pretty highly of you, too, I bet. As for your ex, what goes around comes around. She will have to deal with the consequences of her actions some day. I, for one, am proud of your determination. Stay strong Warrior!

    • Have you looked on You tube at the baking soda cure they are are talking about. I dont know how true it is but it seems worth a look at.

  9. Cancer is a ugly disease that seems to be attacking many and it has no age limit at that . I have lost many loved ones to the disease , my parents , a brother and many friends . I pray that there will be a cure for it someday . Early detection can be life saving . So don’t put off seeing a doctor if there is anything out of the ordinary going on . Yearly check ups are important . Pray for those who are in a battle or those who are mourning and take time to be a friend and help someone get through each day . Just knowing someone cares gives another that ray of Hope

  10. My dad died for weeks ago…it started with a skin cancer and that was sorted….he then thought he had piles and refused treatment until it was obvious that it was something worse.
    It was anal cancer this over a course of a year was cured but had a secondary cancer in his liver….more treatments more chemo and radiotherapy and in the last attempt liver stents.
    This failed and during his pet scan it was also found he had lung cancer.
    It killed him on the 14 January and I had to travel to France to be with him as this is where he lived.
    I held his hand for four days and nights whilst I watched him age a year every hour.

    Now I have read this and four some it may be right and for others it may be entirely wrong.
    But here is the thing.
    At the time this would have given me some guidance as to handling a very bad situation.
    I winged it I did what I felt was right and have no doubt I dealt with it well.
    But something would have been a great help at the time….so thank you.

    • David,

      Please accept my most sincere condolences over the loss of your dad. I have no doubt you handled your dad’s cancer with love, support and compassion, and I sincerely wish I could have written this earlier to help both of you through the frustrating and frightening progression of his disease. However, please know that THE MOST IMPORTANT thing that happened, which is nowhere on my list, is that YOU WERE WITH HIM and HE WAS WITH YOU.My heart and prayers are with you.

  11. It’s all so true , Johnny did his best and fought so hard but he lost on Dec,6 2014.. As me and the Boys his Mother,Father,Uncle,Sister and Brother watch him take his last breath I have not been the same I was married 32 years to Johnny he was a sweet,giving,caring,loving great father and never let us go with out.. Now I cry all the time,My oldest Son taking it so hard and my youngest son is like a rock just like his father .. I’m just telling his story because I just want everyone to know please always tell them you love them .I did ever day and miss him so much..Please pray for my boys and me to get throw this hard time it is not easy at all.. Teresa Walls James..

  12. I would add one more to the list. Don’t tell me all the “root causes” of cancer or that it is somehow my fault that I have cancer. Don’t say that cancer was caused by bitterness or anger or some other suppressed emotion. This is essentially telling me that I have what I have deserved and THAT is something that the person does not need to be hearing in their already vulnerable condition.

  13. I think it says it all my wife has stage three ovarian cancer. I try to understand what she is going thru. But the truth is I don’t know. This article really gives me thing to think about. Every day I ask her how do you feel. That will change as of today. Family and friends are going thru there own battle when a friend or family member is going thru this. This can help every body in thete own way

    • Hi Lisa, I just saw this and am a 2 x ovarian cancer survivor. As you know there are no kind of cancer that is harder to deal with. I am sending you love and light.
      big hug

  14. I think it’s important to remember that all cancer patients are first and foremost people, and people have a variety of wants, needs, attitudes, and responses. I would hesitate to tell anyone what other cancer patients need or want–only what I need or want. Even that can change according to the day, the stage of my disease, and the other things happening in my life. So perhaps the best advice is for cancer patients to be more vocal about telling their loved ones what they need and want. Actually, that sounds like pretty good advice for all of us, cancer patients or not.

  15. As a cancer patient, my immediate response to this article is, who does this b think she is? I’ll give her credit for some good guidelines, but the fact that we have the same disease gives her no insight into my soul, needs or desires, whatsoever. She needs to get over herself and maybe discuss this with other cancer patients before assuming that she can speak for us. She represents no one but herself. As for her pointers, most of them are respectably true if not completely so, for me. But, since I am not your loved one, I will not presume to say which ones apply to them. The biggest for me, is give me my space when I choose to avoid Facebook for a few days, and use terminology like “Hey! Missed you!” rather than “are you okay?” We do, indeed get really REALLY tired of being asked if we’re okay. Say instead, I hope you’re feeling okay.

    • Hi Bob,

      Hey, thanks so much for coming to my website and calling me a b—–. I’m the writer of this piece who “needs to get over herself.” Nice. Very nice.

      I hope you can find some semblance of peace as you go through this mess. Lighten up, Francis.

    • A bit harsh, don’t you think Bob? This is not a “one size fits all” list and I don’t think that’s what the author intended. She is sharing her experience, plain and simple. There are some good pointers here, not all fit me and they don’t have too. Take the ones that work for you and leave the others behind. It certainly does not warrent calling someone names-really? I have cancer, an incurable type and I get angry too, I think yours is a bit misplaced-chill.

    • Hey Bob
      I can see you are going through the anger phase but why not direct it closer to where it belongs rather than spit your poison venom at an Author of a perfectly fine and true article. And yes, I have terminal cancer so I speak from experience. Your stress/anger is SO NOT good for your health!

    • Hang in there Bob. She is writing good words. When my husband was dying of colorectal cancer at age 42, I wish I had been able to read this. I was in utter shock for the 7 months he lived, then died!
      I’m so sorry I couldn’t do anything to really help him. I’m sorry you have Cancer Bill. It sucks!
      I’m sending you a virtual HUG!

    • Hi Bob, I understand you are feeling some rage right now. I found this artlcle very very helpful. I am going to post it on my facebook page again.
      I hope you feel better soon. Sending you a big hug and peace.
      Big hugs

  16. Thank you for writing such an eloquent article. I try on my blog (http://ithoughtihadtheflu.blogspot.com) to convey this sometimes, but I end up on a messy and gross tangent somewhere I can’t get back to. I was always surprised with how my family and friends would greet me when they would come to visit when I was going through the worst part of treatment with my APL type leukemia. They would look at me and talk softly and be gentle and scared to touch me. I wish I cold have mass emailed this article to everyone 2 years ago!

  17. Fantastic . I lost both my Parents and lady friend within 4 months in 2011due to cancer and I wish I had known all this , I would have helped a lot . Thank you and Courage.

  18. Thank you for posting this. I have many friends and family who are or have gone through a fight with cancer and maintaining a sense of “normalcy” in a stressful and chaotic time has been an element of grounding and reassurance for many of them.

    I encourage you to look into http://www.imermanangels.org They offer free 1-on-1 support for cancer fighters and caregivers of cancer fighters, my friends who have received a mentor through them have nothing but GREAT things to say.

    Wishing you the best!

  19. I think this is pretty amazing but not just for cancer. I don’t have cancer but have family member that are survivors. I do suffer from a very rare cyst inside my spinal cord that they say only about 40k people in the US have that is incurable and and there is pretty much nothing to help it. I suffer in extreme pain everyday and am paralyzed and I am getting progressively worse and will continue to. I am only 31 yrs old with 3 found children all under 10 that don’t quite understand what’s going on with Mommy and I wish I had friends that could take them and give them some time away to just be kids without seeing me in pain. I have only been suffering for 11 months so this is very new and have really felt alone. I plan on sharing this on my page for my friends and family to read so they can kinda get a sense of how to handle talking to me as I feel since my diagnosis it’s been really hard for them.

  20. Very Good article Kim. Sorry to hear you rare battling the beast.As a Pancreatic Cancer survivor i can sympathize.I would have liked to have a copy of this to hand/send to my friends, even the ones that disappeared. i will say a prayer for you tonight. God bless.

  21. This is the most real thing I have read. When I was in my battle I didn’t even want to tell anyone. I didn’t want anyone’s pity. People always seem to want to hear the drama. I found I couldn’t talk to many people because of this. I had gallbladder cancer. I am 7 years old as I like to say. Ok I really say I’m 7 years clean and sober from Chemo.

    For me the only one that I could talk to was my teddy bear. He listened to all of my fears and anything I could not let friends and family know. When they asked how I was doing I didn’t want to worry them so I would say I was doing fine. Then I would poor my heart out to that bear. If you don’t have something to do this with I would recommend you find it.

    Thank you for being truthful!

  22. As a child of 2 cancer survivors treat ppl with cancer like nothing’s wrong with them. They don’t need to be reminded that they are sick they know they are. Help when asked don’t keep asking if they need help that will just annoy them hell that would annoy me they are sick not handicapped. Don’t stare at them because they have lost their hair it happens it’s just hair it will grow back don’t suggest a wig if they are wearing a bandana they look more badass with the bandana hell my mom rocked the shit out of it. They have good days and bad ones just like everyone else that’s when they will need you more. Enjoy every moment with them as much you can and sometimes if you know things aren’t going so great and that time might be running out because the desease is winning throw all the rules out the window and screw what the doctors say and live everyday to the best of your ability and help your loved ones do it. They aren’t heros and don’t want to be called one. They are fighters and they don’t just fight for their lives my mother and father fought not just for themselves but for my little brother, my son and for me. Unfortunately not all fighters survive I’m thankful that mine did. For the fighters who do not survive it’s not all about the sadness it’s time to celebrate their life and celebrate that you were a part of it. So make every second count, remember money isn’t everything, if you love them tell them, live every moment like it’s your last even if you don’t have cancer no ones promised today or tomorrow, and make life a blast cause we only get one and don’t wait until it’s too late have no regrets just good memories.

  23. Due to the many complexities of cancer, I recommend you inform your relatives at the beginning of your journey whether your cancer is due to genetics or other factors. Relatives are a bit leery of asking but definitely want to know,

  24. after being clear for 2-1/2 years i am having emergency scans and another biopsy for a recurrence. i am scared skinny. the one about calling if i need anything is a huge one. or call me if you want a ride to a treatment. of course i want a ride. why should i call you?? the WORST was the 2 verrrrry long term friends who disappeared 2 years ago. could not take it. how do they think i feel?? in my experience people either bend over backwards to help (like 2 of my neighbours) or do less than nothing. so disappointing. lesser pet peeve: the number of people who say stay positive. i am trying, ok? and it is the chemo i face that will ultimately decide my fate. thank you the chance to vent.

  25. Only thing I would add is for people to NOT tell me I am their hero or they don’t know how they would do it! You just do what needs to be done & you don’t think about it! I have been dealing with cancer off n on for 13 years now. All the same type but in different places. I have people tell me all the time I’m their hero, no I’m not, I’m just a fighter! And don’t say sorry. I don’t tell people my story for pity, I tell them cause its a huge part of my life!! I tell some of my friends that they are MY hero’s cause I don’t know how they deal with their respective husbands!!! But it is a fantastic article!! Very well written & truthful!

  26. This is what I am trying to do for my step daughter who is fighting Ewing sarcoma right now. She is a strong girl and doesn’t always tell or show us anything. I have decided to be the back bone for not just her but for her dad too. Thank you for sharing this. I am going to share it with others on her page.

  27. I would add, don’t judge. You could easily be the next one in my shoes. Smoking and obesity are risk factors, but there are many cancer sufferers without obvious risk factors.

  28. So spot on! Thank you for writing what I’ve been unable to say. Hopefully my family and friends will read it and better understand what’s going on in my head. Point 1 is often the hardest for me. I have an amazing support team, but it’s still hard to actually ask for help because doing so means admitting I’m not Wonder Woman.

    A link to this blog has also been shared with a world-wide group of 200+ LIVESTRONG leaders. 🙂

  29. I’am thankful of this passage, I have a child hood friend that is now in remission, he, has a young daughter worrys about. I told him that I would do my best & my power , to do all I can for her.But he knows that I have my own emotional problems in my life now & he’s been like Guiding Ángel , in my life wanting to help me when my family members won’t even look my way. I feel helpless that I can do much because of my situation, he has family members too that don’t understand, what’s going on, or don’t accept, it
    They’re in denial the middle child of 3.it was me and his older brother that made friends at the age of 8 yrs old .but now he’s the one I understand the most. And he’s not only helping but who ever ask him too.I want to help him so. God only knows. .I pray that all that reads this passage that “holysprit touches each one of there souls and the healing power in the name of Jesus Christ almighty , brings forth there healing AMÉN in Jesus name I pray.

  30. Well said. I am an oncology nurse. I try to relay this to patients and family. I have lost family to Cancer and I have sat in the caregiver seat for my husband who lost a 7 month battle with neuroendocrine cancer in December 2013. Calls, visits, potluck dinners, cards or notes or just showing up and doing something handy (mow the grass, rake leaves, pressure wash) it will all be appreciated more than you could ever know and you will be blessed for blessing others.

  31. I love this. A friend posted this to my wall after my announcement about my first treatment of radiation, my opinion of said treatment and my opinion of cost of said treatment. I got a flood of calls, Facebook post most from people who had not bothered to call me IN YEARS. Because had they been around they wouldn’t have to ASK anything.

  32. Wonderful passage this is so much true stuff. I was diagnosed on May 13, 2013 with Thyroid cancer and still trying to beat it. Reading this tonight has really helped a lot. Again wonderful passage and thank you for sharing it u

    • I’m so sorry to hear that, Krystal. I’m a thyroid cancer patient, too.

      Have you been through both surgery and radiation?

      My docs have given me a “wait and see” answer on radiation, and thankfully, my antibody numbers are good right now. However, the suppression hormone dosing has been very rough. Please PM via the contact tab if you need to talk to someone.

  33. Wonderful post, beautifully written with compassion. Compassion for those who have NOT had to fight. I say so often that people who have not been there simply don’t know what TO do or say. They aren’t speaking/acting out of malice or trying to be mean, they just honestly don’t know what to do or say. What do you say to someone fighting for life? It’s not easy for everyone to find the right words and actions. It would be great if we were all good at it, but just not everyone is. Posts like this help, they really really do.

    I lost my dad to thyroid cancer (a very rare form) in 2005 and my 12 yr old son just had his last antibiotic infusion this past week completing his 18 months of treatment for yet another rare cancer (12 months chemo, 18 months infused antibiotics). We are looking forward to port removal soon!!!!

    I have just one for those who ARE battling , the patient, the caregivers, the family….etc. Don’t make it harder on your friends and family TO help you. I did. A friend finally said, you aren’t LETTING us help. We NEED to do something for you. It had not occurred to me they were suffering for me and with me. That as much as I needed to be there for my dad, for my son… the same way I needed to adjust the pillows in the bed and make sure they had their meds on time….my friends needed to take care of me too. When I let the door open, it gave me strength in many ways.

    Much love to all the warriors, and many prayers for all.

  34. Hi! I am Jayne.
    I was diagnosedcwith Multiple Myeloma, bone marrow cancer, in 2012. It is an awful one as it is incurable, not widely known and not generally understood.
    I lost my career as a Principal of a large primary school as I had to fight this forc2 the full years. So I had to retire early and lost a third of my pension as the South African Government felt my diagnosis would allow me to return and run my school.
    This is so frustrating. Firstly that I gave blood, sweat and tears for my career, and secondly, as well as being diagnosed with a terminal cancer, I have financial trauma.
    But!!!!!! I am fighting this thing, this cancer, this invasion of my body, with everything I have. How dare it enter my body. How dare it take away the feeling in my feet. How dare it try to limit me.
    I now work as a motivational speaker, run cancer support groups and work on TV. I look awesome, strong and healthy. I feel, wobbly, weak and scared.
    Yet my chin is up, and I am doing it.
    But I agree.i learnt who my true friends really are. People I had helped so much just faded away. Some are scared they may “catch” my disease, illness, fear.
    And I agree so much that it is time, and people who count. Not gifts.
    And be proactive. I will not call you to help me.
    Try to understand I am trying to keep my dignity, my self image as a whole person, not an invalid.
    After my stem cell transplant I have grey curly hair and am overweight. Yet I juice and eat only fruit and veggies. Do not tell me losing weightvwill help. The steroids I take daily make me look like this. My stick straight brown hair has gone forever. Understand I may mourn that.
    Thank you so very much for this awesome article and all the comments.
    There has been nothing I have read here that did not resonate with me.
    The hardest part is realising that some people just do not care. They just do not get it. They are too slack to make an effort.
    So we have to become cancer warriors, doing it for ourselves.
    I encourage you to live your life despite being told to stay home away from infections. Make new friends. Hug people. Tell them you love them. Dress outrageously. Do things beyond your comfort zone.
    Have fun, laugh, be silly, be lazy, read books instead of cooking, or sleep late if you can. My 15 yearold has learnt so much about standing on hervown 2 feet. She was previously pretty lazy and spoilt by me. Now she will cook, juice, make me a smoothie, dance around with me when I am Iin a crazy mood and generally have fun. But we also talk a lot. So that she understands. And her fear lessens.
    My love and good wishes and a big hug to each and every onevof you on this really tough, sometimes unpredictable, scary, worrying, awful, disgusting journey. We should not have to suffer the indignities to our bodies that we do.
    Yet you all told your story.
    You all offered advice.
    You are all alive.
    Live! Thank you fellow warriors. I love you all. X

    • Jayne – your comments made me cry, then laugh out loud. You are the kind of person I would love to have in my life as I too have seen the departure of friends who I was there for all through their troubles. Now that I’m fighting stage 3 breast cancer – it amazed me who left my life and also who came to my rescue (least expected).

      Kim – you were spot on with your comments. I would just add the importance of helping your spouse (caregiver) to spend some time away from you. Friends need to give your spouse a chance to go spend some time having fun and not feel guilty being away from you. For my husband – once in awhile a buddy would take my husband golfing while his spouse would come spend the day with me – take me for a drive etc. I was actually happy to have the break from my husband so I didn’t have to worry about him thinking he had to look after me. It was a gift to both of us.

      I also just want to say to all friends/family – I know you don’t always know what to say or do and sometimes when we are upset we don’t even know what we need – but just know one thing – no one person can “fix” our situation and we know you can’t so don’t feel like you have to try. Just being with us to let us do what we need to do in the moment is all that is required. We just don’t want to feel alone because this disease makes us feel “alone” more than anything else. Because no one else can do this for us…..we have to do it alone. So we need your presence and tolerance in our time of figuring out our emotions in any particular moment. And please most of all – please don’t take anything we might do out of hurt,anger,or just plain scared out of our heads – personally.

      Thanks Kim…..I’ve reposted on more than one occasion.

  35. Thank you this was a wonderful article to help me understanding what my mother is going thru. Breast cancer move to the spine and now has moved to the lungs. I may have cried reading thru it but it truly helped.

  36. I am very happy for anyone who has survived/beaten cancer. I lost my mother Christmas morning from Stage 4 lung cancer. I’m not the same person, but having been able to spend time with her and make videos together to share with others did help a lot.

    • I am so sorry. Lung cancer, any cancer just takes so much from so many involved. My husband only had 41 days to fight it. Blink and they have gone. I wish peace for you and your family.

    • I lost my mother too.Stage 4 lung cancer,it’s been 13 years ago. Four months before my 50th birthday. I miss her everyday and I hate this disease and how much it hurts people. I think she would have lived a little longer if not for the chemo. It just devastated her, watched her suffer and endure treatment. Before she died she told me I was the strongest woman she ever knew. I had lost my 19 year old son 12 years earlier and gone through 2 nasty divorces. I’m glad my mom saw me that way I sure didn’t. She had the strength and fortitude to want to fight to live. She was the strongest woman I will ever know.

  37. This is thoughtful and well-written. It is also applicable for many situations. Our teenage son underwent a liver transplant this past summer receiving the left lobe of his dad’s/my husband’s liver.
    The complications continue. We have no family close by. He missed over a month of school 1st semester. My husband is the breadwinner and will soon start traveling again.
    I know it’s not cancer, but it’s hard. I am tired…
    Another great article is ‘How not to say the wrong thing’.
    So many of us need to be more compassionate, kind, thoughtful, and conscientious about others and their struggles.
    My best wishes and good thoughts to all of you.

  38. This applies to so many struggles; I’ve never had cancer but I’ve had a mentally ill husband in the psych ward for a month and a staggering divorce plus a job loss. I needed all of these things, especially number one. Don’t wait for a person in need to call you. What they need is for you to call them.

  39. Great post if I could I would like to add something. We don’t want to hear “Aunt Mary died of ____ Cancer, sorry to hear you have the same thing”. I’m a 2 timer so I also heard “Never 2 w/o a 3″. In my heart I know they probably regret what they said I just wish some would just think first.

    My favorite of your post is number 5!

    Good point! I totally agree. I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I had a few ask me well did they cut it off? I had a lumpectomy. Disturbed me they would say that.

  40. Great post if I could I would like to add something. We don’t want to hear “Aunt Mary died of ____ Cancer, sorry to hear you have the same thing”. I’m a 2 timer so I also heard “Never 2 w/o a 3”. In my heart I know they probably regret what they said I just wish some would just think first.

    My favorite of your post is number 5!

    • This is one reason I did not want to discuss my cancer, I often feel that when people ask how you are, it is so they can tell you how they are and like you, I do not want to hear about all the people that have not made it to remission. I spoke with a doctor who is a cancer survivor and she told me that she now realizes that in all the years that she has counselled patients on effects of treatment and the feeling they will experience, she had no idea what it was about until she became the patient. Stay strong and keep the faith!

  41. I know its already been said probably a million times, but have to say its beautiful & so right on! Thank you haven’t been able to express my feelings to my hubby now you did it for me. Your amazing & a true warrior! Your truly an Angel as a Breast Cancer Survivor I must say God Bless You & your Family THANK You
    Melissa G

    • I am so glad this helped you and your hubby. This post has been making the rounds on social media, and it’s amazing to see how universal cancer patients are in their feelings. Thank you, my survivor sister!

  42. This is great! I’m just beginning my journey with breast cancer and I’ve had several people ask what they can do to help. And well, quite frankly, I haven’t been able to find the words to say! Now I do! This is perfect!!

  43. I wish I would have read this a few months ago. I just lost someone really close to me, and although, I was there for her, I wish I would have done more her. Having read this now, I will remember this and carry it with me, God forbid another person in my family gets the disease, I will use this information.

  44. I have not dealt with cancer but I have struggled with the aftermath of an aneurysm. The feelings are the same. I think any disease that steals your independence royally sucks. Anything that makes you, not you is a struggle not only for you but the people around you also.
    I believe that you try your best to be strong out of love. You don’t want your friends and family worrying. You are not completely honest because you are so grateful for them and never ever want to hurt them.

    • Thank you for posting this information. I am an 84 year old great grandmother just this month diagnosed with stage 1 pancreatic cancer. I have no desire to undergo the extensive surgery for a possible cure so have been referred to a radiologist for targeted treatment. I am having second thought on undergoing any treatment with the side effects that would slow me down or cause me to be unable to continue to be active as I am now. I’m in good health otherwise and can still walk my 20 minute mile as well as other exercise. I do not want anything to diminish the quality of life I have now. I feel so fortunate to have lived this long and at this time I’m willing to let the disease take its course and deal with the changes when they happen.

  45. Thank you for this article much of it may seem obvious, but seeing it written down in 10 concise stages makes it very clear for everyone you love and want help from or want to be able to explain the parts about mood and solitude. My wife was recently diagnosed and she has such a strong personality, it’s hard for her to burden herself on me often enough. Thanks again.

  46. Cancer sucks the life out of anyone afflicted and everyone around them. There are 5 stages: Denial/Isolation; Anger; Bargaining; Depression; Acceptance. These are very real…and while those stages may be linked to death (loss and grief), they can easily be transferred to cancer of any type. Be nice to each other. We all have our own opinions and our own beliefs. Bottom line: Treat someone with cancer the way you would want to be treated. Don’t make disparaging remarks about what they may or may not believe in (i.e. God, prayer, holistic healing)…each person deals with a diagnosis of cancer in their own way. Those people and their families need support, love, and yes, even prayers.

  47. Thank you for this letter I hope to show it to my family and friends to understand how I feel sometimes when I m not feeling well. Lorma Naude

  48. Thank you for this article.. I’m a surviving fighter(i guess you’d say) and I have been 1-10! I seem to push others away but don’t want them too far that I feel alone.. I HATE asking for anything from anyone. And I do have two young children that I feel have had to have some things put on hold bec I’m not reliable enough to do everything they want n need to do, so I have to rely on others.. OFTEN times it doesn’t work out, unfortunately.. It’s a terrible feeling. I’m going on two years of this which is two years of promises to be made up for!!! Thank you again for your article:) may God be with you 🙂

  49. love it.. up to half way down number 10. Please leave religion out of it. It has no bearing on those of us who aren’t religious. It doesn’t make us or the religiously inclined bad. the assumption that everyone “believes” is arrogant. Non believers deserve the same respect.

    • Mike,
      I’m sorry that you found my mention of faith to be arrogant and disrespectful. Please know that your slamming my stance on faith can also be considered disrespectful.

      I strongly believe in a loving God and savior who is with me during the good, bad and ugly. He gives me tremendous peace and strength, helps me see the good through the bad, and guides my steps in everyday life. I wish you could see this. Cancer may or may not take my life, but regardless of how I die, I will go knowing there is still more for me and the people I love.

      I hope you’ll be there with me. I will be praying for you, friend.

    • As an agnostic having his own lymphoma troubles, I interpreted “faith” as a wide-ranging set of beliefs ranging anywhere from God to the power love to the mighty fists of science. You have to trust in something in all of this, and since I’m hazy to say the least on the God question, I choose to put my belief in science. Goes ditto for the creation of this world we stand upon, and it cheers me greatly to believe in such an amazing planet as where we live coming into existence in a very cold, dark, dangerous universe. I believe in positivism, and I am a man of science. To each their own; anything that gets you to stop shivering in the foxhole is fine by me.

      OP, thank you so much for writing this article.

    • Live and let live?

      The article doesn’t center on God or any particular religion. If it truly had no bearing on you, you would have the ability to respect another’s beliefs and move on to focus on what this is really about.
      They had no assumption that everyone believes in a specific religion. If God is important to them and they mention it in an article that’s great. Move on.

      I see no disrespect besides your comment.

    • Wow, religious people just don’t give up. I find her response even more offensive.

      “Cancer may or may not take my life, but regardless of how I die, I will go knowing there is still more for me and the people I love. I hope you’ll be there with me. I will be praying for you, friend.”

      We don’t want your prayers. Don’t you see what you’re doing? Dismissing his entire comment and belief system by saying that. We don’t press our belief that there is no one to pray to or nowhere to go after death on the religious, why can’t they seem to comprehend how to do the same to us?

      Oh I know why, because they don’t have minds of their own and were told to pray for everyone no matter what. Isn’t that the cornerstone of religion? Do what’s best for others even if they don’t like it so long as it serves my god.

      • Marc,

        I am the author of the cancer post you find so inspirational. I’m also the author of the response you find so offensive.

        Does that mean I have no mind of my own?

        If you truly don’t believe in God, my prayers and my hopes to see Mike in the afterlife should mean absolutely nothing. Based on your point of view, my prayers for his healing and peace would be completely ineffective. Nothing to celebrate, nothing to slam.

        I, however, believe in the power of prayer and the altruistic love of Christ.

        By the way, I’m praying for you, too.

        Life is too short to be hateful. Peace be with you.

  50. I agree with almost all of this, except the pictures thing. I seriously don’t want to remember a single bit of this cancer or it’s treatments. It’s the lowest point my life has ever had. It’s something I’ll always want to forget.

  51. Thank you for writing this. It is truth and wonderfully written. If I would add one thing, rather than make donations to the fundraising cancer companies, help your friend financially first. First, there is loss of income, then the unknown medical expenses, even something as simple as special food/eating needs can blow a budget. Do not assume they have insurance for these kinds of things.

    • This is very true.. thank you for your post as well!! Insurance unfortunately doesn’t cover all visits, medications, etc., much less gas, food, and all the extras that come along with everyday life.. However, there are some that truly understand and for that my kids and I are GRATEFUL!

  52. As a survivor I Thank you for writing this.

    I have gone through treatment in 2007 for a Germinoma (Germ Cell) Brain Tumor. They diagnosed me with this and the biopsy showed that the tissue was as old as from when I was in 7th grade (2003) I just sat in the bed and just relaxed as I received Chemo-Therapy because I have seen many people in my life who have gone through treatment, multiple times. One of which was a friend in 3rd grade. YES 3rd Grade!!! She got through it and so I said to myself “I’ve got this” 😀 and I would grin ear to ear. The Neuro-Oncologist who had diagnosed me said “It should take 5 to 6 weeks for this treatment to be complete.” But I showed them, with my positive attitude I was able to be cured in only 4 and a half cycles of Chemo-Therapy. It was then (about 2 months later) that I went to Boston Massachusetts where I received at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) a special type of radiation therapy for the brain. This is known as Proton Beam Radiation Therapy.

  53. i was diagnosed in feb 2012, now at stage 4 with COPD, it almost a year since i have not worked
    so i am just getting started at this new life, fortunately for the time being i am NED (no evidence of disease, it mean the machines petscans & MRI cannot see anything), so i make the best of my life and my free time, some is spent taking naps as the meds do that to you, i am sure this story is repeated many times with those who have the big C

  54. Alot of truth in this but I wanted to add to the list of don’ts in the comments. I am Stage 4 Esophageal cancer and my wife is a thyroid cancer survivor.

    React however you want to me I am never offended but the worst reaction is to ignore me.

    If you are religious please pray for me. I really appreciate your care and concern but never ever tell me ‘God has a plan’. What may sound good to you if you are religious sounds terrible to me. I do not believe in God so do not think there is a plan but it sounds to me like you are saying ‘what will be will ben God may want you to die’. I appreciate it does not to you, but you are speaking to me.

    Do not make jokes about Obamacare. You may not like it but the pre-existing condition law is keeping me alive because I got let go from my job after I was diagnosed with cancer. Expect me to jump down your throat if you do.

    Do not assume because I do not believe in God that I must believe in the Devil. ‘Yes that has been said to me more than once’ I don’t but you might tip me over the edge 🙂

    I know you will tell me about people you know who died and survived. I am used to it. Every situation and individual with cancer is different so it does not mean anything positive or negative to me. Go ahead and do it. I know you mean well.

    Do not tell me about juicing, weird healing methods, prayer healing people etc. Believe me I have looked up everything and put all my positive energy into the path I have choosen. What matters most is what I believe will work (and by tbat I mean any individual with cancer). I would like your total support and faith in that do not try and offer alternative processes unless I ask. At least ask me first ‘ are you open to alternative treatments’ before you offer them..

    • Lee, regardless of your beliefs…I will pray for you. You brought up many points especially the Obamacare, which I am now so very thankful for. I agree with you on the alternative methods…give me proof that it works…give me the stats. In the meantime I will take my chances with the chemo. Please take care and keep posting!

    • I pray for you to know Jesus. The man that died on the cross for our sins. God that made the heavens and earth and that breathed life in you. I’m sure you’ve made a great impact on someone’s life. God has a purpose for every man and woman.

  55. Thank you. 7 yr survivor who just found out I carry the braca 1 gene. Guaranteed to experience some form again in the future and this is perfect for those who just don’t know how to react or what to say. Thank you.

  56. I’ve had people who didn’t have cancer tell me they wished they got breast cancer! Others tell me that they are sick of breast cancer getting all the attention. One ovarian cancer patient told me she had given to breast cancer in the past but ovarian cancer is the ugly red-headed step child of cancers and she’s tired of hearing about breast cancer.. I looked up at her and told her I didn’t get to pick the cancer I got. Cancer is still cancer and I would hope that any break through in research for one cancer has the potential to help others. Cancer recurrences for breast cancer can come back in the lymph nodes, bones, liver, lungs, and brain but are still referred to as breast cancer because that is were the initial cancer took place. Pleases practice kindness & compassion, especially amongst those who are fighting the same disease, God bless.

  57. I would add another recommendation: make those with cancer laugh. Laughter is great for our immune systems. And it beats sadness one hundred percent of the time. Of course there are times for distress, but not all the time.

  58. Those tv movies always have the inspiring, heroic cancer sufferer…I’m scared witless but all my friends are telling me how strong I am and what a good sense of humour I have about it all. Yeah…not really.

    • Your friends love you .. and sometimes see the toll this disease is taking … though you feel scared witless, your friends do see you as strong, with a good sense of humour! Take courage, perhaps they are seeing past the terror, and doing it with love!

  59. We are living this right now and have been for the past 12 years. My husband is currently dealing with his 58 and 59 tumor. Thank you for writing so accurately what we feel. It is such a scary and lonely place at times and trying to stay upbeat and normal for the kids and everyone around us is exhausting.

  60. This honestly just made me cry and I wrote something very similar to the points discussing bravery and strength a few nights ago. Thank you for writing this.

  61. This spoke to me and honestly something I needed to hear. Someone recently came into my life that has cancer and as of late isn’t doing well. At first he was chatty but lately he has been withdrawn and quiet. I have to admit I take it personally at times and I shouldn’t. I know he is a strong person and this isn’t him. I worry that I don’t know how ill he really is because he is holding back details. I worry maybe he wants me to leave him alone and that maybe I should but know in my heart I cant. I have to be honest it scares me. I lost my dad unexpectedly a year and a half ago 4 days after being diagnosed of Stage 4 Lung Cancer. I feel it was my fault that I didn’t know how sick he was until it was too late and that I am going through this again. I cant tell my friend this because its my personal thoughts and I don’t want to burden him additionally but it is hard to check on him and not get a response back. I let him know I care and want to be supportive anyway I can. At a loss….

    • Hey I would tell you to just keep trying I was like that after my dad died from cancer 3 years ago it’s just a lot of bad news and may have a person not care about him as much you do and will come around it may be hard to get close to someone when your have a disease like this and may not be here for much longer and someone might not want to put that you in that situation

  62. Whether a survivor or a victim, I have also found that the book “Final Gifts” is EXTREMELY helpful in framing conversations in difficult times.
    It is written by a hospice nurse and shares insight into end of life issues and concerns and how to talk with the person who is in the fight.
    It is readily available in paperback. I usually try to keep a few copies on hand in case I have a friend who needs one.

  63. Thank you. My partner has cancer. I am trying my best to understand but feel very lost at times. I will take your advice to heart. I wish you the best.

  64. It’s good to read these comments which encapsulated many of my thoughts. I’m a multiple myeloma (incurable bone marrow cancer) 6+ years and acute leukemia 1+ years, two stem cell transplants, chemo induced heart attacks, blah, blah,blah….

    A couple points-
    When initially diagnosed let your relatives know whether the cancer is genetically related or not. Some forms of cancer can be either genetically caused or unrelated to genetics. Relatives usually won’t ask but want to know for obvious reasons.

    I agreed with the above comments about “being brave” until last year. There was no “bravery” involved, you just did what you needed to do to stay alive and support your family. My understanding grew after the first two rounds of chemo for adult leukemia combined with Myeloma. Both rounds put me in ICU for several weeks with ventilator, a heart attack and week long morphine hallucinations. It became a decision whether I wanted to continue with a stem cell transplant or palliative care. The point being every cancer and patient is different and has differing experiences. Try not to generalize us as “cancer patients”. We all have our individualized treatments and experiences…….

    • John, Thank you for sharing. I have a friend who was diagnosed with MM 2 years ago and she isn’t returning my calls. I have no idea what she is dealing with and we don’t live in the same state so visiting is nearly impossible. It is good for me to know what she MAY be coping with.

    • For Diane L.
      The physical trauma for MM is usually relatively mild (compared to Leukemia) but the diagnosis is much worse. Leukemia and about 90% of other cancers have a possible cure if caught early…..MM does not. It is mentally devastating to be told that it is fatal and can not be cured- only postponed. I imagine your friend may be depressed. Fortunately great strides have been in postponing MM. 30 years ago longevity was only 3-4 months, now it averages 7 years. A few people live 20+ years and have few side affects, but most people will lose about 30% of their energy due to continued medication…..

    • Thank you for that, talk about Rough! I have a friend that lives in CA-I stay in tx- & he has a bone cancer…I plan on driving out to see him and spend time with him & his wife, hoping my mom or brother can come so they two can spend time together and give his wife a break…I don’t know what else to say except You are Strong & Brave, but these two you know you are! I love you

    • I also have mm. Just lost a friend on Monday from it. He fought for 11 yrs, 2 stem cell. I don’t know if I want to suffer in that same way
      I am being considered for a trial. But I am very afraid of side effects (like you suffered). I am also leery of stem cell transplant.
      I had lesion in my femur that almost shattered my bone. Rodding and transfusion. Quite a shock as I was only diagnosed about 7 months ago.
      Do you have any words of wisdom for me? Velcade didn’t work.
      this is such a rare cancer (and fatal) I would love some feedback from others with mm.
      everyone tells me to have the stem cell, but I know it doesn’t last.
      God bless you

    • Gail- My transplant for MM (6+ years ago) was relatively easy with few side affects. I was 57 yeas old and healthy with no lesions. It was a stem cell transplant using my own cells. I did gain about 30 lbs and permanently lost the ability to produce testosterone. It took about 3 weeks in the hospital with limited pain. I then took Revlimid for 5 years. I’ve remained in remission since the transplant. I did lose about 30% of my energy and took about a year to be able to walk a mile.

      My complications and pain were related to another transplant last year for leukemia which was much worse. About 20% of the MM patients will have a second cancer after 5 years with MM. 7% will get leukemia.

      I think you need to consider your age (over 65 years old and transplants become risky) and overall health. Also if you can not transplant your own stem cells it becomes much more complicated. The chemo for each type of cancer varies so my leukemia experiences should not be relevant to you. The leukemia transplant used my brothers cells and I was weakened from fighting MM for 5 years.

      If you have any other questions don’t hesitate to E mail me at johnwmson2000@yahoo.com. I think fear of the unknown is oneof the biggest problems for stem cell patients. Hope this helps.

  65. This is simply FABULOUS! It applies to much more than cancer. I am survivor of childhood sexual abuse and suffer from chronic PTSD, and much of this list applies to victims/survivors of abuse as well. Thank you for writing these words. I will be praying for you and your family, and a complete recovery 🙂

  66. I am a two time breast cancer survivor. 20 years and 2 and a half years. The one thing I remember from the first time was what my oncologist said. Your attitude is 90% of your recovery. I refused to listen to anything negative and trusted my God and my medical team. I have been truly blessed.

  67. DON’T tell me about every person you have ever know that died with cancer, tell me about all of those that survived.

    DON’T treat me like I’m a disease, I am still a person

    DON’T say “I know how you feel” even if you have had cancer, you don’t know how I feel.

    DON’T ask me how long I have to live. It’s the same answer as everyone else. Until I die.

    DON’T SAY “If I were you” you are not. Things are very different when you are on the outside looking in.

    DON’T say “your hair will grow back” I had hair before that I pretty much liked.

    DON’T say “It’s only your hair”. The opportune word here is YOUR. Not so easy to take when it is your own.

    And my favorite for the Pathologist. Don’t put on the biopsy report things like, “the remaining breast is unremarkable. Sorry guy, it was pretty remarkable to me!

    • I love what you’ve added to this. Also, DON’T SAY “good luck on your recovery”. This is not a poker game or slot machine…we are fighting for our lives. I have been extremely fortunate in my breast cancer diagnosis being caught early and working with a first-class cancer care center in Brewer, Maine receiving follow-up chemo and therapy to assure no cancer cells remain. Today I am receiving my last chemo and look forward to rebuilding my strength. My body has blessed me this morning with amazing blood cell counts and I thank GOD for leading me in the right direction. All we need to do is listen, follow and BELIEVE. Thank you for sharing and I bless you all who have or who are continuing to struggle. My heart goes out to each and every one of you.

    • DON’T tell me about every person you have ever know that died with cancer, tell me about all of those that survived.

      Amen to this! I am a 23 year breast cancer survivor and have always kept a positive attitude. It is 99% of the battle. However, even after all these years, I’ll have people tell me about others recurrences and how bad they are doing. Seriously, I do not want to hear this.

    • So awesome. Thank you. I was beginning to think mentioning losing my hair was stupid…so many ppl have it so bad. But it is all a part of things we are dealing with, even tho it seens insignificant to others.

  68. I am a 14 year thyroid cancer survivor. Getting ready to another scan and radioactive iodine treatment. One of the hardest things I heard about thyroid cancer was “if you have to get any cancer this is the one to have”. No cancer is good! Family and real friends were a great help to me. Thank you for this article because I found it to be very true.

    • I totally agree. Just had thyroid surgery last week. You can almost see them dismiss your situation bc it’s “only” thyroid cancer. No big deal. And it’s not. …. until it happens to them. Now that I’m cancer free, I still haven’t broke down, and I think part of it is the stigma of having the best cancer to get”. Like I’m over reacting or something. My response was. ..I don’t care what the high % of survival is bc I only had an 8% chance of getting cancer. So now you’re assuming I’ll be on the positive side of the stats now. I choose to live by the peace from God that I got through this bc He doesn’t read stats.

    • I just had my thyroid removed last week. Found out that the cancer had spread to both sides of my neck and into my lymph nodes. In the beginning I was told that this is the cancer to have if you have cancer. Of course I was told it was rarely found in men too.
      I don’t know if I am in denial but I find myself thinking “mine isn’t as bad as everyone else. Maybe it’s just to soon for me to process.

  69. I was diagnosed with renal cell cancer one-year ago had a kidney removed and am taking chemo pills. I have to take them for the rest of my life now. Thank you for your words of wisdom.

  70. I am a 16yr survivor of colon cancer Stage 3 flirting with Stage 4…I didn’t mind anyone saying anything to me. I digested it all. Friends and family want to help and want to talk but perhaps are afraid of how that person will take their words…Let them be themselves…for after all it was I who had changed not them….I was not afraid to ask for things I wanted from family or friend…You learn that everyone wants to help and you have to learn how to ask…Chemo threw me into the hospital for a week after the third round…I survived that with a sense of humor and tolerance for all…My motto was…Change the things I can….Accept the things I could not change…and the wisdom to know the difference….I am not saying that some cancer patients feel as you do…but not all…I say ‘keep your sense of humor about you at all times’ during your ordeal…For if I didn’t laugh I would surely cry….and I had not time for tears…

    • Thank you for your comment on keeping a sense of humor. My sister passed away 3 years ago from brain cancer that metastasized from her lung… through the whole thing she made jokes. I would laugh and have to remind her that the doctor didn’t have her same sense of humor and to “behave herself”. We both would laugh at the doctor’s reactions, but knew he was just doing his best… I would explain to him she had a warped sense of humor that was her only way to handle it and meant no disrespect…They came to love her as did all the staff who took care of her in the final months…. She faced the reality with grace and pride and tried her best to keep others from being too serious. She saved that for me and our other sister…. We miss her so much but it’s the funny times that are overtaking the sad memories..

  71. I’m 6-1/2 years out from a diagnosis of Stage I breast cancer. There’s not much I can add to the original advice or to this discussion, except to offer the link to an article some of us found helpful. (By “us”, I mean the wonderful women I met in a discussion forum for people affected by breast cancer. Some of us formed an on-line support group to help each other through chemo, and we’re still together.) The title of the article is, “How not to say the wrong thing.” Its message is, “comfort in, dump out”: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/07/opinion/la-oe-0407-silk-ring-theory-20130407

  72. It has been almost a year since I was diagnosed with breast cancer that has spread to the bones. I am going through treatment number 7 this coming monday. I am on 2 forms of chemo. Yes, some days are harder than others but I try to LIVES each day. There is so much of life I want to experience and cancer isn’t going to stop me!! My faith in the Lord, my doctors, and my wonderful family are what keep me strong. For those of you out there having a difficult time dealing with cancer, just know you are all in my prayers daily!! God has answered so many of my prayers. I know He will answer this one! Love, prayers, and peace to all!

    • Agree with you 100%! My mom passed from Ovarian Cancer after three years of treatment. I am still mourning her loss but her quality of life became so poor at the end it was a relief to know she wasn’t suffering anymore. She just wasn’t one of the lucky ones that responded well to chemo.

  73. Please don’t say of people who survive cancer, “She’s a real fighter! She fought the cancer and won!”

    People who survive cancer are lucky. We want that for all of them, of course, but surviving or not surviving cancer has nothing to do with how much the person wants to live.

    My dad died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He didn’t die because he didn’t fight hard enough. He went through several horrible rounds of chem, and lost half his (already lean) body weight. He couldn’t control his bodily functions and had to wear a diaper. He was in horrible pain. He died not because he didn’t want to live – he was only 62 and had plenty to live for – but because he was not lucky.

    I am grateful for everyone who survives cancer, but the ones who die from it didn’t die because they just didn’t work hard enough.

    • I totally agree with you. My father passed away may this year after going through every chemo, radiation and any other treatment we hoped would work or help him. He fought for 3 years to live. They gave him only 3months to live when he was diagnosed. Sounds very similar to your fathers situation except mine had pancreatic cancer. It was very difficult to see the things he endured just to continue to live. Great man that I’ll forever miss.

    • to gold digger. While I’m a 3 time cancer survivor, I lost my dad to cancer too. I agree with you. I didn’t fight any harder than he did, yet he’s the one that passed. He was only 52. But I don’t believe it’s all about luck. I believe that God decides who decides and who doesn’t. He had a greater plan for our dads up in Heaven with Him. But you’re right. It’s not about who fights harder. God Bless

  74. Although I am an elderly person with health issues of my own, I find I get the greatest joy out of blessing someone else when I feel the most rotten. I refuse to fret about my illnesses because I really am so much better served making my charges @ church and Sunday School laugh. I am in a water aerobics class. We have so much fun singing oldies while we work out. It is completely joyful talking about our mates, children, and grandkids. We even laugh about our aches and pains or the coldness of the water. There is one lady in the class who is blind and cannot speak English. Although she is by herself much of the time, when I see her praying and dancing in the water to a tune only she can hear, I am so grateful for my life. My point is HER JOY IS CONTAGIOUS! It pours from every cell of her being. People respond positively to positive stimulii. Believe me; it happens to me all the time! lol Just my feeble attempt to talk to her in her native tongue makes her eyes light up. Now she listens for me. I know perhaps much of what we say to each other is not completely understood, but we communicate with each other very well!.

  75. I know this sounds crazy, but I view my breast cancer diagnosis as the “best” worst thing that ever happened to me. I have a whole new outlook on my life. I cherish my relationships, I don’t worry about small hurts and disappointments, and I look to every day as a gift.
    This list is perfect! Getting the news you have cancer is devastating, but the day you decide to live your live, not as a “survivor” but a “THRIVER” could be so empowering!!

    • Yes Arlene I agree, I myself am a survivor of a brain tumor, I was cured in 4 and a half cycles (out of a scheduled 5 to 6 cycles) because I refused to frown as I went through chemo (my inner positivity thrived as I got the news that I had cancer) and sure after the first 3 weeks it felt a little hard to keep smiling but I got through it and Now I live as a THRIVING Survivor who enjoy’s life even more so than before and no one can ever understand unless they’ve gone through something similar, and were once within the faint grasp of death yet escaped

  76. All very relevant points. I have seen my Mother through cancer, & I have had it 3 times myself. None of this journey is easy to watch or do, let alone speak out a out it, so I applaud the author for their work.

  77. As a cancer survivor, I loved reading what people with cancer want/need. I’ve been told that I should be grateful that I got the good cancer (Thyroid). Who is grateful when they hear the word “cancer”? Yes there is treatment for it but not a cure. I felt fine before the tumor was found accidentally in an X-ray of my neck. Having my thyroid removed has changed the quality of my life. Yes, I’ve been clean for 8 years but I simply don’t feel well. The only people who truly understand this are those who have been through it.

    Please don’t tell me that your friend has breast cancer and she is handling it a lot better than I am!

    When you offer to do anything for me, like someone said above, don’t say no. If you must say no, please tell me that you will do it on a specific day so that I don’t have to ask. I DETEST asking for help.

    I learned who my friends were. I learned who my friends weren’t.

    7 months ago, my daughter and I came home from babysitting overnight for my granddaughter. My husband was found dead in the bathroom. Just like that. No warning. It’s like I have PTSD since his death and it really reminds me of my cancer experience. I got lots of cards and offers to help. Lots of flowers too. My daughter might not be able to finish college, I’m going to sell my house and most of my furniture and probably get a one bedroom apartment-if I can afford that. Thanks to Obama, I have medical insurance (medicare) but it’s a far cry from the 5 star insurance my husband had. At the same time, the adoption agency I worked for, for 7 years closed down due to bankruptcy.While struggling with my health and worked part time while my husband was the 6 figure income. It’s all gone now and I’ve been to job interviews and literally started crying.

    Most of the advice given above, also applies to the loss of a spouse. I showed 4 different men a hole in a wood post near my front door when they asked if there’s anything they could do…..There’s still a hole but it’s bigger now. Do. Not. Offer. Help. Unless. You. Mean, It.

    A handful of people who I never expected to come over and help are all people that I was not very close to. Some of my “close” friends have seriously let me down. I am grateful for those who helped me. The people who helped just walked over or drove to my house and “just did it.” Two men with a lawnmower and a yard waste bin came over when they saw that my neighbor’s lawn was freshly mowed and mine was terribly overgrown. Some dear friends helped me feel 20 large hefty bags of my husband’s clothes and she took them to a place that sells what can be sold and recycles the rest. I’ll be forever grateful to those who stepped up to the plate.

    7 months of paperwork, death certificates and the list goes on. I’ve accomplished most of it on my own and there is so much more to do. I abhor asking for help and genuinely appreciate when people come over and say “hey, I’m going to the store, would you like to come or can I get anything for you.”

    It’s the simple things folks….just be kind, mindful and put yourself in someone’s shoes and think about what you’d like. Thanks for reading if you got this far 🙂

    • As a widow of a cancer patient and mother of two young children, I agree with you completely. When my husband was determined to be terminal after a years long battle with cancer, the support flooded in. Not so much for the years preceding his last few months and certainly not so much since the funeral. I cared for him and our children through every surgery, round of radiation therapy, and every round of chemotherapy while managing our home and working full time. Since his death, I am still managing our home, working full time, and navigating solo parenting. Countless people offered for us to solicit their support when he became home bound shortly before his death. Countless people came to hospice during the 36 hours that he lay comatose before he died. The visitation, funeral service, and procession was the largest ever seen in our area. Very few of those people have been in contact or of any help since. The point is, don’t offer something that you have no intention of doing. Don’t ask what you can do. If you see a way to help, just do it. If you can’t be bothered, don’t offer. Just say I am sorry for your loss and go about your business.

  78. I love all of your points. I’m two years out from breast cancer. What I struggled with the most was the “God only gives you what you can handle. ” let me tell you there were days I handled nothing well and that phrase was so hurtful. I’m not a hero , like you wrote, but I didn’t want to die. Thank you for sharing.

    • I think we’ve all heard, “God gives you only what you can handle.” I can’t find that anywhere in the Bible, so I don’t put much stock in it. The truth is that God DOES give us more than we can handle, but we can get through it with His help.

    • I understand that. My Dad had cancer in his kidney and a multitude of other illnesses. He got the kidney taken out, yet that only bought him a few more years. He ended up getting a staff infection when he had two vertebra fuzed together with a metal plate and screws. He ended up passing away in November of 2009, right before Thanksgiving, but not before we reconciled. Two days before he died he called to tell me that he loved me. I cried profusely. I miss him.

    • God does Not Give us what we can handle. He helps us handle what we are Given. Just thought that needed some clarification. God bless. Prayers for continued healing and good health.

  79. I wish you lived next door. I would bring you a King Ranch Casserole and a Texas Sheet Cake. I have always loved the Southern tradition of if you don’t know what to say let your food do your talking. Loved your list and am praying for you!

    • Thank you for your kind words.

      I love the Southern traditions as well. We’ve had friends, neighbors and colleagues bring us meals during my treatments. It may seem like a small gesture, but it is so wonderfully helpful – plus these folks are far better cooks than me.

      I would love the casserole and cake. Do you deliver to Dallas? 🙂

  80. This is all so true…I went thrum breast cancer and I can tell you everyone of you that this just hit the nail on the head.

  81. I have one more thing to add. My wife had cancer in 2000, thank God she survived and is alive and well today. When we were going through it, people wanted to tell me/us their stories. I had to stop it. It amazed me that so many people wanted to tell me how a loved one of theirs died from cancer and all of the horror stories associated with their death. Now is not the time for that and I had to tell people that if their story did not have a positive ending, keep it to themselves or find a professional to talk to. We were staying positive and negative stories were not allowed. I make no apologies for that and I think that it is very rude to tell horror stories to someone who needs positive words and understanding. I made people mad and lost a couple of so-called friends doing this but no one going through cancer needs that kind of selfishness at that time of their lives.

    • THANK YOU!! I went through aggressive cancer treatment when I was 20, and I remember a stranger stopping to tell me his uncle had died of cancer… This was while I was bald and still in the trenches!! I broke down on the spot and sobbed and sobbed – he was totally shocked by my reaction!!

      Really?!!

      Hope is the most important thing us survivors need to hold onto to keep fighting .. DO NOT diminish that with a horror story.

    • I agree, the last thing we want to hear when we don’t know the outcome of our own diagnosis is that someone else died from the same or similar CA.

    • I am a breast cancer patient and David I totally agree with what u said, that is the last thing us cancer patients want to hear. Thank U for posting.

  82. dz’s list is awesome. Stage 2b breast cancer- 2 1/2 years out. Chemo done and radiation done. I’ve had sooooo many surgeries. My last one was a 12 hour reconstruction that I want, but it sure ain’t pretty and it may never be.

    -Don’t say “let me know what I can do,” then say no when I ask you for help. It’s hard to admit you need help at all and to be refused like that really hurt.

    -My brain has not recovered from chemo. I’ve lost words/terms/things that should be there, but I can’t find them right away. Give me a minute to get it together.

    -My pre-cancer ability to have tact in every situation seems to have died with my cancer. I’m not trying to be too direct or short-tempered. I just don’t seem to have the same personality I had before. I work hard to be tolerant, but sometimes I sort of blurt out at things/situations that are silly but treated as serious (OMG he didn’t call me back… I could just die. No, I could have just died when my two tumors were secretly growing without any genetic or predisposing factors.).

  83. thanks for this article – I have sent it to my daughter as some of these things she needs to see. I have breast cancer and I think the most difficult thing I have dealt with is the fact that everyone tells me to “stay strong” “keep a positive attitude” etc. Sometimes I want to be honest – I was to say how scared and sad I am and then I get the “cheer up” speeches. Sometimes I just want to be allowed to cry.

    • I agree, I`ve had two cancer`s and I am facing a third I`ve lost my vocal cord and tyroid now I found out I have breast cancer. Sometimes it`s good just to cry and get it out. I hope everything works out for you!!

  84. This was a great article to read. The points you’ve outlined here (in my opinion) work for many scenarios: those with depression, fatigue issues, addictions, and health. Thanks for sharing what struggling souls would like us know.

  85. As a Mom of a 4 year old cancer survivor, I’d add:
    Please do not compare adults with cancer to children. They do not have a fully developed world view, they have not lived a full life yet. They are children. It’s entirely different.

    Please do not criticize my parenting while in treatment. If my child, after surgery, on chemo, needs to kick a hospital wall, I will let her. If she’s tired of medical students, I empower her to ask them to get out.

    Please tell your children, my child desperately needs her friends to treat her normal. Play dates are like gold (if your child is well).

    Please do not send your child to school sick! My child has missed months and cherishes days at school, but can’t go because your child is ill, but you still send them.

    Finally, please keep praying for us even after the initial diagnosis. We worry every day cancer will come back, we dread scans and appointments, we pray your family will never have to fight this beast and that there will be a cure.

  86. nice, except the comment about stopping smoking being able to prevent cancer.

    It’s good advice but perpetuates the idea that not smoking prevents lung cancer. It doesn’t. My non-smoking twin sister, also not living with radon gas, was diagnosed with it stage four in March. Neither I, who smoked, nor my parents, who smoked for years, had it. My sis is among a growing number of women in particular who are getting lung cancer without reasons. It is exponentially the biggest killer of women, outstripping breast cancer many fold. It is also, unlike breast cancer,the one that victims are blamed for, because of their life style choices. So, yeah, say stop smoking. But also add that a growing number of people, especially women, are getting it despite never smoking at all. .

    • No one really knows what causes a cell to turn malignant. Sometimes cancer just happens to people who live healthy lifestyles with no risk factors. That’s what makes cancer so scary. My thyroid cancer is supposed to be caused by excessive radiation exposure, but I’ve never had more than just a few dental x-rays. Cells just decided to go rogue. No one is to blame.

      I am so sorry your sister is experiencing Stage 4 lung cancer. There is no rhyme or reason to it, and she definitely has my prayers for peace and healing.

      Studies have shown that non-smokers can develop lung cancer and other respiratory ailments simply by living or working with smokers. Dana Reeve, the late wife of Christopher Reeve, developed lung cancer caused by years of singing in smoke-filled nightclubs.

      Smoking cessation can help reduce cancer risk and improve overall health, and thus, it’s imperative that we encourage others to quit. My favorite uncle was a lifelong smoker and died of lung cancer just a few years ago. I hate that my aunt and cousins no longer have him around. My grandmother suffers from severe emphysema caused by continued exposure to second hand smoke in her home. She must now use oxygen because a family member is too selfish to quit, and the tragic thing is that this chain smoker has no lung issues. All of this suffering could have been prevented. 🙁

    • i truely enjoy reading everyones post. its very inspiring and up lifting. i was diagnosed on mar 7th w breast cancer, its been very hard on me and my 3 kids. im a single mom, so doing all of this w out a significant other is so very hard. im going thru a divorce and my soon to b x is very selfish no compassion and that really hurts my feelings. but i now know my life is better off w out him. but it still doesnt make any of this easier. cancer is so hard on a body. the treatments r horrible. im just so ready to b done but im not. scared sad frustrated happy at times try to keep a smile on at all times so my kids and friends dont know how i really feel. sometimes i just want to cry and i do. sometimesi just want to give up on the treatments but i cant. what do u do w all these emotions. im lost and confused a lot of the time its all just so overwhelming. help……

    • “It’s good advice but perpetuates the idea that not smoking prevents lung cancer. ”

      Or, the advice says that not smoking reduces the risk of getting lung cancer.

    • Margaret,
      Thank you for pointing this out. I am also a twin and like your sister was diagnosed with stage 3b lung cancer in April. I have never smoked. Since my diagnosis I have read about so many others who are like me and it is heart breaking. I would love to speak with your sister since it seems we have a bit in common. If she is on twitter my name is @diianeee,… If not I completely understand. I wish the best of luck to you and your family!

    • I have/had twin sisters one had lung cancer the other has thyroid cancer. They were raised with a very strict mormon lifestyle. There is a genetic component but the risk can be reduced with lifestyle changes, like not being around smoke.

    • Margaret, So sorry to hear about your sister…. and I can relate to your post. I too was diagnosed wiith stage 4 lung cancer Feruary 2010. Non Small Cell Adno carcinoma to be exact. After digesting the shocked look on peoples faces, their next question to me or my husband was “were you a smoker?” Like maybe it would make it all make sense then because I did it to myself. I have to admit that my first reaction to the dr when I was given my diagnosis was disbelief. My first words were ” Thats not possible, I am not a smoker! ” Since then, I have learned all the ins and outs of this disease and realize that there is no rhyme or reason why , how, or whom it will effect next. They have no idea, how I got cancer and I realized it doesnt even matter anymore. Its there and there is no changing it. I am coming up on my 5 year mark and am grateful for the time I have been given. I know that when I was diagnosed I struggled with my “death sentence” and searched endlessly for survivors of this horrible disease. Lung cancer, doesnt leave many. I needed to know that someone had beat this and that I had a chance too. Unfortunately, I never found any on the internet, even in cancer forums. Very disappointing at a time when I deperately needed it. I am hear to tell you to tell your sister, I am here, I am a survivor ! Despite, statistics , it can be done. I will be praying for you, her and your family. Cancer doesnt just effect one, it effects all.

  87. Great post! I just finished chemo for breast cancer. I have 5 kids at home who all have Down syndrome. This has been such struggle. Next comes more surgeries and radiation. It has been SO HARD for me to let go of some things. I’d like to post a link to my blog but I don’t want to spam yours. You can email me at deanleah at comcast.net if you’d like.

  88. Kim,

    Very well said. My mom has been battling Ovarian Cancer and is doing very well. As a grown child, it has been very hard to watch. Here is my list for those with children-no matter how old you are, you still need your parents. Don’t forget about the kids! Remember this news has probably “rocked their world.” Seek support from family, friends, teachers,of a spiritual group.

    1. Form a team. Family and friends need to play an active role in supporting. The family needs help. Even though, they may want to keep it private. Drop off dinners, bake a cake, and send cards. Most of all take care of their kids. Talk to them about it, ask them how are you feeling about this?, and most times they want someone to listen to them because everyone else is so focused on the patient. Bring them on your day trip with your family! They may need to forget about life for a little while. Although, be understanding if they say, “No.” Be a constant in their life.

    2. Celebrate successes! Last chemo treatment, good news, or anything that is in a positive light. Go to dinner, go out for ice cream, or take a family vacation.

    3. Spend time with me. I know you don’t feel well and you want to live your life. Your time to complete your bucket list is dwindling. Please, take a trip with me, start a new tradition, and remember gifts are crap. No coffins have a luggage rack . Your time with me is a gift and memories will last forever. We went to Disney and we go to Broadway shows. We do lunches at the house and just sit outback and chat.

    4. Let me yell, scream, and cry. Please don’t tell me to be strong, I just had to made peace with the fact you may be dying. I am on a roller coaster of emotions. I probably haven’t slept in weeks. Friends, family, moms, and dads-hug your kids and tell them you will get through it as a family-because you will. There is no other choice.

    5. Seek second opinions. Our first opinion had my mom dead in 6 months. 3 years later and she is kicking strong.

    6. Remind me that cancer is not a death sentence. Many people live many days, months, and years with cancer. Sometimes, we just have to live it being in chemotherapy or in doctors offices.

    7. Take pictures with me.

    8. Change your attitude. Be positive. Live the life of The Secret. Do not be negative. We will feed off of that and will feel your energy.

    9. Remember we are living in constant fear and are holding their breaths. Encourage us to go out and have some fun.

    10. Educate me. Educate me on my family health history. Seek genetic counseling and encourage me talk to my doctors about your recent diagnosis. It makes them alert and sometimes they will perform more routine check-ups.

    11. Let me help you. We feel so helpless and so sad. If we want to make dinner, paint your nails, take you food shopping, fold your laundry, or cut your grass. Let us. We need to take part in this healing process too.

    • Jackie,

      Thank you so much for sharing your perspective and providing tips for children. My kids are having a tough time with my diagnosis and treatments, and these items give them concrete ways to help and show they care.

  89. Thank you for all of these! I would add but don’t post my picture! This is personal, I don’t want my picture hanging in everyone’s house! Also don’t tell me or my husband about your friend or relative who died with a cancer! This is our reality and we know. If you are a survivor tell me. I was surprised to only have four people come up to means say, hey I have been there and you can do this!

    • My best support system is other survivors. I call them ALL the time to see if what I’m experiencing is normal, and they are so wonderful about helping me understand all the med jargon.

  90. Insightful article! But what interests me the most is that everything you said is applicable to any chronic illness such as Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis to name a few.

  91. My sister was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. My wife and I sent her 400 dollars to help her get her wigs and begin her meds. Upon hearing the news that my sister’s phone service was about to expire, my wife and I decided to place her on our account so that she could keep in contact with her doctors to follow up on her treatments. My wife lost her job the next day. 2 days later we get a phone message. Long story short, my sister’s child (with 3 babies and a convict husband), sends a message asking for 500 dollars to pay their utilities. When my wife sent a message to my sister asking her to please “tell me that you are using this money on your health”, my sister responded with a message that stated “I’m glad to see that you think so highly of me”
    If my wife and I didn’t think highly about the health of my sister, then why would we have sent the money? After a few transmissions on facebook of them calling me a drunk and saying that I have no family, I told my wife to cancel my sister from our phone account, which also cancelled her internet.
    How about if you tell me what you think.

    • I think the situation stinks, and it has nothing to do with your sister’s esophogeal cancer – she and her daughter have a terminal malignancy of character. Unfortunately, cancer doesn’t cure manipulative behavior; however, you can cure them by saying “NO” and sticking to your guns. Pray for your sister or send “just thinking of you” notes, but by NO MEANS should you and your wife provide ANY more financial support at this point.

      Forgiveness is a choice, and you’ll have to forgive her for your own benefit. I’m not saying you have to make nice and tell her all is forgiven; you’ve suffered a real and unjustified hurt. However, you do have to let go of the anger and judgment, and move on with your life. (It’s okay to keep her at a very healthy distance.)

      Sadly, we can’t pick our family, and “blood” is no excuse to tolerate crappy behavior. Nor is cancer an excuse to treat others like crap.

    • Dear Copperhead Road – I also think your situation is appalling. I agree with Kim Keller’s point-of-view. You and your wife need to focus on forgiveness. Forgiving someone does not excuse his or her behaviors. Forgiving your sister will give you and your wife peace and prevent her disrespectful behavior from destroying your kind and generous hearts. dz

  92. ♡ And I would like to add… when someone does return to heaven after their fight do not say they lost their fight to this horrible disease. Those that pass away did not loose, are no less a hero, nor did the cancer nor its horrible treatment win the battle. They have won their fight in the end and have gone to a better place beyond the pain and torture their lives had become battling the disease. I cringe when I read the words ‘lost their battle to cancer’ as if somehow dying made them less of a fighter than someone who has gone into remission and is living after their fight was won.

  93. This list is a great start. Here are some more helpful ideas and points to ponder.

    1. If someone says, “No, please don’t take my picture.” Please respect their wishes. There are some memories that some people don’t want documented. I still do not want my picture taken. I still feel chopped up and torn apart…. AND do not, I repeat, do not post someone’s picture on Facebook/internet without asking…. AKA be respectful.

    2. Don’t assume a cancer patient is healthy and doing great because he or she is gaining weight. Weight gain is a side effect of all of the steroids taken before, during, and after treatments. Weight gain frequently signifies that treatments are not going well. Also telling a person he or she is lucky because they will finally lose those last ten pounds during chemo is not helpful.

    3. Most cancer patients would prefer to have their body parts respected. Cancer patients frequently find it disrespectful and callus to see t-shirts and signs with slogans that make fun of an amputation. For example, boo bees, breast friends….

    4. It is not fun to go bald. Resist telling a cancer patient he or she will have so much fun picking out a new wig, scarf, or hat.

    5. Reconstructive surgery is NOT the same as breast implants. Again, don’t tell cancer patients they are lucky because they will look fantastic when the surgeries are done. Please notice the ies at the end. Each surgery is a major surgery, painful, and a reminder of vulnerability.

    6. Restrain from sending cancer patients heroic stories about other cancer patients who died, have several reoccurrences of the disease, or who get a second type of cancer. These horrifying situations may not have dawned on your friend with cancer.

    7. Don’t compare your friends and relatives with cancer, with all of the movie stars who are “coming out of the closet” with their cancer stories or cancer risks. These people have NO idea what it is like to go it alone. After a couple of weeks or a month most cancer patients are going it alone.

    8. No news is not good news. This is what people say when they feel guilty for not helping or staying in contact. Your friend or relative who is battling cancer may be too tired or too sick to pick up the phone and call.

    9. Take your friends and relatives with cancer healthy food. Leave the desserts and treats at your house. Cancer patients and their families need to keep up their strength to endure the grueling treatments. One of the best ways to do this is eating healthy. Take a fruit basket not a cake.

    10. Don’t assume all cancer patients want to live out their battle and diagnosis publicly. If you believe someone is not sharing enough “specific details” deal with it. It is not your battle. It is not your health. Please respect your friend/relative’s privacy.

    11. Don’t blame the cancer patient for being ill. Don’t ask for details about the diagnosis because you are scared that you will get cancer and you want to avoid making the same mistake that he or she made. Do not insinuate or accuse your friend of not taking care of himself or herself by not going to the doctor soon enough or often enough. In addition, don’t be angry at your friend or relative who has cancer if they don’t want to share details. It is none of your business what the cause of their cancer was. In most cases the cause is still UNKNOWN. It is none of your business how they found out or when they started to suspect that something wasn’t quite right. They already feel awful. Making them feel worst will not help them… even if it makes you feel better and/or superior.

    12. If you want to help your friend or relative with cancer be specific. For example, say, “I go to Target every Monday. I would be happy to pick up any items you need each week.” Call just before you leave for the grocery store and ask if there is anything they need. Offer to drive or walk their kids to school or other activities. Offer to help with laundry. Offer to give their children a bath, read them a book, or take them on a walk. Offer to wash and cut up fresh fruits and vegetables. Some of the most helpful things that you can do for your sick friend or relative is to help with the daily routines.

    13. Taking Tamoxifen is not easy. It is a daily reminder of an unpleasant past experience. Do not minimize these feelings. In addition, cancer treatment does not stop when chemo and radiation are done. Tamoxifen and other treatments usually have unpleasant and painful side effects.

    14. A five-minute phone call or card is enough.

  94. Kim, old friend, very well put. As a hubby of a cancer patient I want to give a husband’s view. It is not easy at all to watch your gift from God go under the knife not once but twice. Not easy to see them go through chemo not once but, twice. Not easy to see the once vibrant High Impact Aerobics participant that ate all the right things and worked out very much go through this and go downhill to being able to sit after putting on half of her make up because she is exhausted. Then the why questions to the Lord who sent her to me. Then the sermons that remind me I should be asking, “Lord, what steps do I take now?” (great sermon and much needed) Spouses have a rough time watching the woman they love go down and we hubbys are geared to fix and for once we can’t fix or buy our way out of a mess.

    God is so good I love Him and cherish these times with Bev and hold onto her smile and her drive and energy. What a sweet wife He blessed me with. Now, we are facing possibly another battle for her. Praying God’s grace to be poured out on her.

    Thanks for the blog!

  95. So well said, this is so helpful to those of us who know someone who has cancer , have cancer ourselves , and just need to know how to honestly deal with the issue, and I think everyone fits into this category. Sometimes we are afraid to say something that might not be right, when honesty and real emotions are whats needed. There are no guarantees in life and we should live each day as if its our last , and be real, what a precious gift that is.

  96. This is true for anyone with a debilitating disease. I have been living with End Stage Renal Failure for 23 years, had two transplants (I’m on my second one) and was on dialysis for 14 years. More than anything we want to be treated ‘normal’ and we want to be allowed to be scared.

  97. Very interesting, I feel people should get more involved in situations like this. I hope that we can thank God for those that are ” Cancer Free”.

  98. Thank you for offering this insight. My 22 year old sister is battling stage 4 liver cancer and I often find myself not knowing how to be there for her or perhaps even misunderstanding her needs and or behaviors. You would think in a situation like this it would be easy to remove ones ego – and by that I mean not taking things too personally but I suppose it’s human nature. Thanks for being so candid and for helping others while you yourself are in need of help. You may resonate with my thoughts on being an outsider looking in: http://theconfessioness.com/2014/05/27/cancer-the-beingness-of-parenting-and-everything-in-between/. Wishing you nothing but thoughts of health and recovery.

    • I love this paragraph from your post:

      “I feel like parenting is the ultimate lesson in vulnerability, plain and simple. Its about loving unconditionally without fear or regret, despite the fact that nothing in this beautiful life is guaranteed. We open ourselves up both literally and figuratively to joy, happiness, excitement, adventure and pride and yet we also put ourselves in a position of scrutiny, pain, frustration and sometimes and most unfortunately, loss. Being a parent is unpredictable, scary and sometimes utterly heartbreaking but the reward is so so spectacular.”

  99. Maybe it comes from from my mother having this nasty habit of taking in people when they are dying but I am blessed not to have that awkwardness around folks who are experiencing treatment or even those who are terminal and I have a couple of responses to your list…

    1.Don’t wait on me to call you if I need anything.<– Pet peeve in most situations, call me if you need me is such a cop out!! If I care about you I will call and harass…What are you doing? What to watch a movie (or should I say want to sleep while I watch a movie?)

    2. "Let me experience real emotions." I try to encourage expressing the negative emotions too so depression doesn't take over. Friend: "I'm good, I'm doing fine really" Me: "Wow that's awesome. I just think I know me I would be pissed and thinking this isn't fair…"

    3. What's up buttercup? is my favorite!!

    4. Forgive me. Shouldn't even be an issue but sometimes humans are stupid.

    5. Just listen. – I'm ok with touching so when someone is in a talking kind of mode I try to offer a hand or foot massage… then you aren't just looking at them and the acupressure encourages emotional release.

    6. Take pictures of us. Don’t let me say “I don’t want you to remember me like this” <— Oooh that would get you a world of crap from me! Put some lipstick on and stop looking so damn sexy I don't need you to make me look shabby!

    7. I need a little time alone. <– You should know that for friends like me, you may have to tell me you want to be alone for a bit because I will feel guilty for deserting you…

    8. My family needs friends. – This all goes back to number one – you shouldn't have to ask! Ugh – people

    9. My wonderful friends and family who have taken on the burden of illness have been the catalyst for healthy eating, exercise, giving up my cigarettes… and taking on Mud Runs, fund raisers, living in the moment and
    10. weathering the storms by dancing in the rain. Hugging strangers (especially if they are in obvious distress – do not expect me to walk past someone sitting alone crying in a hospital or anywhere really)telling people I love them freely, forgiving insensitivity and so much more… living now!

    And if there ever comes a time when the treatments no longer work, please know that I will always be grateful for having lived my life with you in it. I hope you feel the same about me. <– Made my eyes sting with tears and were you here I would squeeze you tight – I don't even know you, don't always (or even often) comment but I appreciate you and would miss you terribly!! You matter and bless people all the time, you write beautifully, emotionally and with purpose – it will be so exciting for you when get to see the lives you have impacted although I hope that is a L O N G way off! 😉

33 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Share your cancer story
  2. An Intermission For An Update On The Realities Of Life With Cancer | Julie Yip-Williams
  3. What your friends with cancer want you to know ...
  4. Lo que tus amigos con cáncer quieren que sepas | Gist España
  5. What your friends with cancer want you to know (but are afraid to say) | STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
  6. What to say…. | krazykat214
  7. Monday Rant – Crap That Annoyed Me Last Week | Running Around the Bend
  8. Readers share their cancer stories with Roadkill Goldfish | Roadkill Goldfish
  9. What your friends with cancer want you to know (but are afraid to say) | Roadkill Goldfish | Loss, Grief, Transitions and Relationship Support
  10. What To Know About a Loved One with Cancer | Womens Health
  11. Too good to pass up Part II | juliaverbatim
  12. Thyroid cancer rates continue to grow; learn how to protect yourself | Roadkill Goldfish
  13. Being a Friend to Someone with Cancer | Robin Luftig
  14. Perks!! or Perks?? | One Boob at a Time
  15. Roadkill Goldfish's Top Ten Posts of 2014 - Kim Keller
  16. Några sanna ord | Lev nå
  17. Make it Personal | Fat Mommy of 4
  18. Nursing vs Real Life | Diamonds and Burlap
  19. Breast Cancer | Pearltrees
  20. What would you tell your friends? |
  21. Church stuff | Pearltrees
  22. the blog post i should have written, but she did such a perfect job.. i hope you read it | do i look bothered?
  23. what the heck is myeloma?? | do i look bothered?
  24. We this says it all in a nut shell….. | gemma2015
  25. SparkNotes from Cancer 101 | Seeing Pink
  26. Was Dein Freund von Dir hören möchte, wenn er Krebs hat, er Dir aber vielleicht niemals sagen würde | Health Care meets Social Media...
  27. Embracing 2015……so far! | My Blog
  28. embracing 2015………so far! | mytreasuredchest
  29. What Your Friends With Cancer Want You to Know
  30. More things your friends with cancer want you to know - Roadkill Goldfish
  31. The truth about living with thyroid cancer, the so-called good cancer - Roadkill Goldfish by Kim Keller
  32. Livestrong at the YMCA rebuilds bodies and souls after cancer treatment - Roadkill Goldfish by Kim Keller
  33. What your friends with depression want you to know, but are afraid to say - Roadkill Goldfish

Let's talk. Join the conversation.