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Thoughtless comments

I'm sure this has been discussed as it's pretty common I'm finding.

I made the decision to share my diagnosis with only my immediate family, my partner's children and a handful of very close friends. I'm aware that my emotions are currently super charged and I'm overly sensitive right now but holy cow, some the the stupid comments!! I'm aware that people do not know what to say and therefore try to fire off a joke or unthinking comment. I'm sure this comes from good intentions but seriously?! I have shared some of these with a good friend who has gone through two previous cancer surgeries. She had the same scenario. We have both agreed it's in the “they meant well” category. She helps me not dwell on these thoughtless quips. I thought I'd share a couple on here too so if any of you would like to throw out your own SMH comments, fire away. I'll go first…

On telling one of my best friends that I was scheduled for a mastectomy to be followed by chemo, she immediately assumed I'd be losing my hair. Honestly, I hadn't even been thinking this as I thought losing my breast or my life took precedent. Her quick response was, “I'll keep an eye out for wigs for you. Look at the bright side, it's close to Halloween.” I have no words.

My cancer survivor friend said her best friend on hearing her news of a mastectomy said to her, “Well that's one way to lose weight”. Again, no words.

Maybe we should start an award for most thoughtless comments.

I try to counteract these remarks with the outpouring of genuine love and support from the others. I'm overwhelmed with their thoughtfulness! I'm sure if I took them up on all the offers, I would not have to cook, clean or garden for a year!

Love to all.

Pat

56 Replies
Brighty
8591 Posts

@islandgirltoo I'm so sorry. I wish I could say im shocked, but I'm not. Heard them all on this forum… and had a few beauties myself as a caregiver and griever. What I learned was people say insensitive things, or even try to use what they think is humour to deal with difficult situations. They lack the understanding of the situation so they spit out whatever to try and difuse things to deal with their own fear. That's just their way of coping with something that is terrifying to most. Some people just need a better education when it comes to people skills…i wish we were forced to learn people skills in school!!!!! so , we can either educate them ourselves, or just keep them in our ‘back row’. Keep those that support and love you in your ‘front row’ and do take them up on their generous offers. Hugs to you.


Thewasp
81 Posts

@islandgirltoo

My best friends ex-husband only saw me after I completed chemo and the first thing he said to me was “I bet you wish you had retired earlier.” I had only been retired 6 months when I was diagnosed. i put it down to him having no clue what to say to me. He’s socially awkward and has no insight.

I’ve had female acquaintances ask Me why I still wear caps even though I have about a centimetre of hair growth. Many women look fabulous but my comfort level isn’t there yet. My answer is “My hair, my decision.” And then I laugh.

Most people mean well so I just try to let it go but it does bother me at times.

@Thewasp I know they mean well and I try to keep that in mind and overlook it but sometimes, it's tough. In my head I have a lot of comebacks that I keep to myself. Another normally thoughtful friend upon hearing the news, launched into a long, sad story of her cousin currently in palliative care with terminal cancer. I had to call her on that and say perhaps I'm not the person to be sharing that with right now. She was mortified. I know the word cancer triggered all her fear and sadness and she simply was not thinking straight. I'm going to give her a pass on that one ;)

DMT
204 Posts

@islandgirltoo I stopped telling people. I only had a handful that I felt I should tell but it was a week before Xmas with mastectomy scheduled for Jan 4th. My immediate family was good, but the friends…. After the second one said “Oh no, you’ve just ruined my Xmas!”, I just stopped talking to anyone. I couldn’t deal with ruining everyone else’s party plans while I was just trying to deal with my own troubles. When I hear about some of the things people say I’m kind of glad that my reaction was to clam up.

JenG
221 Posts

@islandgirltoo oh boy, those are hard to read. People just don’t think before they speak! I just lambasted some friends yesterday for an insensitive comment (not cancer related).

If you’re a reader or podcast listener, I’d recommend checking out Kate Bowler. She’s Canadian but teaching in the US. Her book and podcast are both called Everything Happens. The book has many examples of what not to say and it tells her story of being diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. The podcast is more broad but has some interesting topics and guests.

Im sorry for the insensitive people In your life. Keep the ones who understand close by.

hugs,

jen

Daf
15 Posts
The best for me was my sister. She said she was relieved as statistically she was safe now since it's one in four and there are four of us sisters...then she asked if I could come boost her car before I went in for my double mastectomy!
Runner Girl
3008 Posts

@Thewasp
I wore my cap until I had a good amount of hair hiding underneath it.

I went in for my first haircut of my new hair, that looked a little like Einstein's as it doesn't all grow back at the same rate. Then I felt I could “disrobe” my head.

Totally up to you to do whatever you are comfortable with and good for you for standing your ground.

Mosi
221 Posts

@islandgirltoo
My best was from my GP. I think this man is great but he’s young. When I saw him after 10 months of cancer treatments he looked up from his computer and said “oh you cut your hair”. I had packed my sense of humour that day so I was able to request he lean a little forward so I could give him a smack. He instantly recognized the faux pas and appeared horrified. I had no idea where to file this comment

Kasey

@Daf Good grief. More crust than 10 pies my dad would say. I am one of 4 sisters too. They have been ok for the most part but one moronic brother-in-law made some pretty dumb a** comments. Those I just ignore as that’s his style. To him it’s funny if you find a weakness and pick at it to see if you get a reaction.

DSJ
120 Posts
My favourite response to thoughtless and otherwise stupid comments is “ I don’t look sick and you don’t look stupid” . There are T shirts with this if you like.
Terry52
54 Posts

@islandgirltoo

I am so glad you posted this. And I’m sorry you got hit with a stupid remark. Here’s my story.
I was diagnosed with rare sarcoma In my thigh last year. Recently our beloved German Shepherd was diagnosed with an osteosarcoma In her leg. She is our baby.When I told this person,who is family,how upset I was, that sarcomas are rare, why her? .His remark was “ ..did you give it to her”? I think he thought he was being funny. I was hurt and stunned.What??

We had to put her to sleep yesterday and we are broken hearted. I hope to God he doesn’t find out. I can’t imagine the comment he’d make.

I love @Brighty suggestion. Yes people really do need to take lessons on what to say or not say. I swear some people are complete airheads.

Thank you for letting me vent. I am still angry and hurt!

Terry

@Terry52 I’m so sorry you lost your fur baby. They are our family. Gentle hugs from me.

Terry52
54 Posts

@islandgirltoo
Thank you so much for your reply. It means so much to me!

Terry

Smarti
10 Posts

@islandgirltoo

I‘ve found I can group our friends and family members into three categories: the compassionate and thoughtful, the awkward group, and the ghosts. My husband has pancreatic cancer and we are nearing end of life. I am his only caregiver and we’ve had very little support from family etc. so, like many sharing our cancer experiences, we are both emotional and sensitive. We‘ve had some real SMH comments, the most upsetting was the family member who felt the need to make light of our final resting arrangements by suggesting gruesome alternative scenarios. Once I recovered from the shock, those comments were firmly addressed as unappreciated and inappropriate.

I am very grateful for the thoughtful group who understand even the smallest gesture or being a good listener can bring a lot of sunshine to your day. I’ve learned to let go of the ghosts. I can sense who will be awkward the moment they set eyes on us so we often lead the conversation with letting them know we are both pretty tired and sensitive. That seems to help those folks find their footing in the conversation. And, tbh, I’ve reached the point where meeting comments with a sense of humour is exhausting and it becomes another added pressure in very stressful situation.

I completely agree with Brighty - many people lack the skills to understand or cope with those affected by cancer. I’ve often considered posting a list of what not to say to and how to be supportive.

@Smarti your grouping is perfect. Reading that I see it fits perfectly into mine and most others too, I’m guessing. I would have to add the ”means well” group although it could be an off shoot of the awkward group. One of my sisters fits that group. Every conversation either by phone or email has her reiterating how many people she knows who have had cancer and come out on top. I know it’s meant to reassure me but please not Every. Single. Time.
My thoughts to you and your husband. I’m so sorry for all you are going through.
Pat

Charles
130 Posts

@islandgirltoo:

Maybe we should start an award for most thoughtless comments.

Based on what I read here, that's a great idea!

I agree with several other posts – a lot of the time, people want to say something, and what comes out of their mouths isn't very well thought-through. So we should try to be kind, even to “Oh, my best friend died of that!”<g>

. Charles

dogperson
8 Posts

@islandgirltoo i told my younger sister about my breast cancer because, as my surgeon said, now there is a family history of breast cancer. I have told one or two close friends, who have had cancer scares and they are empathetic. By nature, I'm a private person.

I once publicly indicated my support of cancer fundraising, hospice care etc. and was accused by two acquaintances of being an “emotional blackmailer”. One of those former acquaintances is a retired nurse. SIGH.

Hmmn, maybe I should make a custom Tshirt, “Beware, I have cancer and I'm an emotional blackmailer.”

The world has gone bonkers, thank goodness for my husband and our dogs.

Cynthia Mac
4127 Posts
dogperson‍ Oh, wouldn’t you just love to say to one of those acquaintances, “I’m not saying you have to do it, I’m just saying you’ll end up in hell if you don’t. Now, THAT’s emotional blackmailing!”
halfass
23 Posts

@islandgirltoo
I choose to let all my friends and family know- it is just easier for everyone if they know it's Ok if they know. I also included a statement that I asked them not to suggest the latest treatments and snake oils, as I would be doing my own research and working with the professionals I have chosen to get me through this. I also stated that I cherish their friendships. I pre-empted the jokes (which don't really bother me…I guess I am a bit different that way) by calling myself the half assed numb bum. I know some people were a bit put off by my request for silence on “helpful suggestions” but it has saved me from the anguish I have seen others go through with these issues.

Vad123
7 Posts
@islandgirltoo
when I received the results of my biopsy I knew I had to let my younger sister know. We had several breast cancer diagnoses in the family including an older sister. i was very worried for her, I knew she had not been to doctor in years due to covid. I told her I had been diagnosed with Invasive ductal carcinoma and required surgery. Her reaction floored me. She said she had three friends that needed biopsy’s and the doctors must need money. Then went on to say I don’t have cancer because her friends biopsy came back normal. i tried to explain yes I did and she needed to get a mammogram. Over the next few months she argued with my other sister as well. She asked me if I had the biopsy and surgery done in the doctors office? My emotions were so high and I was terrified. Unfortunately her ignorant comments have forever changed the family dynamics. She even went so far as to tell a friend who knew and asked about me that (she told me she didn’t want to embarrass me) that there was nothing wrong with me. I have never spoken to her again and highly doubt I will. The pain is still there and I cannot forgive her heartlessness. Six months later She talked to our sister-in-law and finally believed her. She sent me an email telling me the date of my surgery (LOL) and if she had known she would have wished me well. WOW
Chichimus
39 Posts

@islandgirltoo
Overall people have been good and I can forgive the ones who say something that comes out sideways out of awkwardness. Cancer is a scary thing to most people. But then there are those who are just clueless or worse, mean spirited.

I guess the worst reaction I got was having to drop by my bank. This was pre covid with my last cancer and I had to wear a mask when out. When I got to the teller she recoiled and said “What's wrong with you?! Am I going to get sick?” complete with the why-aren't-you-locked-away-someplace tone in her voice.

My standard response to twits has become “Were you born a **** or did you have to take lessons”. This is my second time with cancer and I no longer give a rat's patootie if I hurt their little feelings.

@halfass I have one friend who is all about naturopathic healing and I couldn't face her at the door with her box of cures. I have not told her. Another who is not as radical but definitely bends that way is already giving me little jibes about sugar. We used to meet often for coffee and carrot cake on Saturday mornings. Now it's “are you sure you want carrot cake? What about the sugar?” Ok let's just suck the joy out of that small pleasure. I already gave up my white wine. Step away from my carrot cake! Sheesh. This forum is a good place to vent sometimes 🤣

@Vad123 wow indeed. Family dynamics. I have 3 sisters, I know.

Cynthia Mac
4127 Posts

@Vad123
@Vad, I, too, had to separate myself from my sister, after many years of toxic verbal exchanges. At least in your case, your sister “got her education” and came around.

I’ve learned there’s a difference between harbouring the pain and bitterness and being unable (or unwilling) to forgive, and simply releasing them back into the universe with love and the knowledge that even if they don’t figure it out, they will no longer be able to inflict their opinions or pain toward you. (I’ve also learned that often times they are releasing their own inner pain and resentments.)

I had the opportunity to tell my sister that I love her as a sister, but if her behaviour didn’t change I would love her from a distance. Now, I do just that. I remind myself often that I am healthier for having made that choice.

I hope your situation works out for your highest good.

Cynthia Mac
4127 Posts

@islandgirltoo
the “sugar feeding cancer” thing was a popular theory about 11 years ago, and it has largely been debunked. Enjoy your carrot cake!

(There are many discussions about it that are about 3 years old now, so if you want more “ammo” you can do a search here on the site.)

@Cynthia Mac she also thought we should sit in the sun with our mouths open as that kills Covid so I take what she says with a grain of salt…or sugar 🤣

nel
34 Posts

@islandgirltoo

I have two cancers. First I have endometrial cancer. I had THBSO in February 2021. My cancer recurred on October 2021. Started chemo on November 9, 2021 to January 2022. We stopped chemo because it did not worked. Immunotherapy on February 14 to March 29, 2022, we had to stop that too because it became so toxic in my body. I have been on treatment break since to give my body some rest from toxicity from both failed treatments. I am not cancer free yet, I am just being monitored closely. I have Estrogen Positive Breast cancer almost simultaneously. I just had a left breast full mastectomy just 5 days ago.

So far, I have received the following comments:

When I had my THBSO: “it's good you are going to lose some weight” (I'm not even overweight)

When I have undergone a failed chemo: “You are looking good.” “You don't look like you're sick."

When I had stopped my immunotherapy because of toxicity and I still have cancer: “You are looking better and better each day.” “Good you are growing your hair - it looks good on you. You look like your son."

Recently, when I was scheduled for a mastectomy: “At least you can pick what size you'd want to be - get cup D” ( I decided to go flat). “So, if you don't have uterus and all that stuff, now you're losing your breast - go for a sex transplant - now, you can try to be a male”

When I said to a close friend that I was so tired, (during chemo treatments) this was what she said: “I get tired too, you know. Other people do too, not just you…”

Same friend who have ghosted me then texted: “I am sorry I have not been texting you, I am so busy. People are busy these days.”

A friend commented on my failed chemo before immunotherapy treatment: “I thought the doctors knew what they are doing. It seems they are doing a trial and error on you.”

A friend who has another friend who have survived stage 4 lung cancer: “Drink Barley tea every day, it's what she did and she's in remission now.”

…actually I have received much much more insensitive comments than that…most of them leave me speechless all the time.

margareth
39 Posts

I had a heart issue, just before the beginning of the pandemic.. it is still not resolved. As with cancer… people are uncomfortable around illness…(probably very adaptive for those threatened with a communicable disease) many are frightened… and will look for some way of blaming the victim… If in some way I deserved this affliction, then they may be immune… Meantime we are now walking in what will never be anything but a new normal… This might happen even for medics… No doubt some have been through the wards.. and are now dealing with the psych effects of PTSD.. we must give them space… We now live in very strange times… For cancer issues… we have each other… Next week is the Terry Fox… anniversary…

Climbing
210 Posts

Some of the comments I've received,

A Get Well Soon card, (I'm stage 4 terminal so I cringe when people tell me to get better soon

My sister in law sending me a self help book after I cried on the phone when I told her my diagnosis

My cousins partner suggesting sesame oil to restore my platelets

My partner telling me we will have lots of time left and we will live a long life together

And, of course, you don't look like you have cancer

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