• 100 Days of Good Karma: Day 89 (It’s Okay to Ask)


    Wednesday, October 8, 2014

    Day 89 of 100 Days of Good Karma.

    While picking up the kids, one of the parents asked me a question about treatment.  I forget now what the question was, but she followed it immediately with, “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”

    “That’s okay,” I said.  “I don’t mind talking about it.”

    And I don’t.

    But I certainly understand her hesitation.  Before I was diagnosed, I had the same hesitation.

    I remember how awkward it was to ask someone about cancer.  I know now that the awkwardness was all mine.

    Now that I’m on the other side of the conversation, I wish people would ask questions more often.

    When people don’t ask about it, I feel like I have a giant red ‘C’ floating over my head.

    When people do ask about it, I feel like I’m just another perfectly normal person with a problem.

    And let me tell you, I prize that ‘normal’ feeling above all else these days.

    Today’s silver lining:  The people around me who don’t treat me any differently.  I love them for this.

    At some point in your life, you will probably talk to someone who has cancer so I’d like to offer a few tips when the topic comes up:

    • Don’t tell me a story about someone you know who died from cancer.  This is the number one no-no in my book.  We all know someone who died from cancer.  Living with cancer is hard enough without hearing about the worst case scenario (as if I don’t think of it twenty times a day anyway).
    • Do tell me about someone you know that survived.  I love those stories.
    • Don’t make light of the situation.  Some levity is okay, but only if it’s initiated by the person with cancer.
    • Do feel free to simply ask, “Would you like to talk about it?”  The answer to this can change from day to day and I’m happy to let you know if the answer is ‘no’.
    • Don’t minimize the situation by assuming that once treatment ends, the cancer is gone forever.  We hope that’s the case, but sometimes cancer comes back and we have to learn to live with that.
    • Do remember that every person with cancer used to be a person without cancer.  We had, and still have, interests and strengths and weaknesses that didn’t involve cancer.  Ask us about those things.
    • Don’t try to change how the person feels.  They might be sad today, angry tomorrow and laughing the next day.  Cancer is an emotional roller coaster and they’re just trying to hang on.
    • If you ask, do be prepared to just listen.  You can’t fix cancer, but you can lighten the cancer patient’s load by being a good listener.

    Now I wouldn’t recommend finding the nearest bald stranger and pouncing on them with questions of diagnosis and treatment.  That’s crossing all kinds of social etiquette lines.

    But if you have a question for me, please ask.

    I might not answer every question, but I certainly think it’s okay to talk about it.

    If you keep questions respectful, the other person will probably appreciate that you cared enough to ask in the first place.

    What’s your silver lining today?  I love comments!


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9 Responsesso far.

  1. Michale Bauer says:

    Great post, Meghan! The other day I was shopping at an HEB and saw a man in the parking lot wearing a face mask … like healthcare workers use during surgery and care of infectious patients. I took a double-take, because his mask was so out-of-the-norm. And he saw me do that. If he had been closer, I would have asked how his day was going (at least that’s what I think I would have done). I thought of you and how strangers perceive you (you’ve written about it numerous times). Thanks for the Dos/Don’ts and the reminder to be a listener.

  2. Mom says:

    I ask how they are doing, and then whatever the answer is I’m kinda ready for it. I have learned lots and lots from you, Meg. Sometimes I just open my mouth and put my foot in it too! Sorry if I do that. Tell you the truth, I’d rather not hear about it even though I know it’s there. Selfish of me though. I do remember to ask how your day has been even though it’s just a normal day. I like the magic acts and tents and other silly things that “most” not all parents do with their kids. Then I can remember you and Tripper being little and doing the same things. Even the tea parties. You are great and your dad and I am very proud of you but then we felt this way before cancer. you are more AMAZING every day and ten times stronger than I am. My HERO! Love ya, Mom

  3. Pam says:

    As always, I look forward to my daily reminder that you have a new post. Once again, a super useful and excellent post. You’re really bringing together so many great resources for people with cancer, people with loved ones with cancer, and people in general.

    I’m gonna miss the daily blogs once you hit your 100 days, but will hope to be involved in whatever other writing you’re doing.

    Inspired as always,

  4. karen murphy says:

    You NEVER fail to amaze me girl. How in the world did the little girl running over to get chicken and dumplings grew up to be such an insightful young woman? You continue to amaze me daily! BTW if I could figure out how to get chicken and dumplings to u I would. Got a better idea. BEAT THAT G– DA-NED CANCER BEAT, then bring the family to visit!! I’ll make u ANYTHING!! You are the superwoman

  5. wendy says:

    I remember growing up with my sister who has cystic fibrosis and the looks people would give her when she coughed. She was in no way contagious, other people were more of a threat to her. But not knowing her situation, they would look at her with disgust. You know me, I got pretty mouthy with quite a few people over it. People don’t understand until they go through it unfortunately.

    I love how you help us all to try and understand more. You are seriously one of the best people I have ever met. You are hilarious and so down to earth “I DRIVE A CHEVY!!!!!!” LOL!!! I will never forget that! Keep being you. You’re so damn good at it. Love ya.

  6. Cindy Smith says:

    I agree with everyone who has said how strong you are! I love that you have worked so hard to try to stay positive throughout this fight. Not everyone does that, this I know for a fact. Hopefully, I have not treated anyone differently because of whatever their ailment is, especially since it is nice when someone asks how I am doing when it is obvious that it is a bad day.

    As to the chicken and dumplings, you’re on! Thomas makes a mean pot of chicken and dumplings and I am putting it on the list of things to do for after our vacation. I have a couple other things I have been wanting to make for you guys, but as we discussed before my body hasn’t been so nice to me lately (including another trip to the ER – 4 times this year – UGH!!). We are supposed to go on vacation on the 20th, but it is going to depend on how my left calf is doing. I’d hate to miss it, but life goes on and we have to do what we have to do.

  7. […] Wir alle kennen wahrscheinlich irgendwo irgendjemand, der krebskrank ist. Und oft wissen wir nicht, wie wir mit dem Thema kommunikativ umgehen sollen. Einfach frei heraus ansprechen? Oder vielleicht die Partnerin unauffällig nach dem Gesundheitszustand fragen? Oder will man vielleicht lieber gar nichts davon hören? Meghan, diagnostiziert mit Brustkrebs, gibt gute Antworten auf diese schwierigen Fragen: “It’s okay to talk about it” via 100 Days of Good Karma: Day 89 (It’s Okay to Ask) | Getting The Words Wrong. […]

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