What to say to a cancer friend

To my precious friends, from a breast cancer survivor

By Leda

Cancer is an earthquake that shakes you to the bone.  The diagnosis means, get ready to die. Hug your kids, make a will, make all arrangements so that they are OK without you.  Even if you are 30 you cannot ask much from life any more, if the devil’s got you in its jaws. I was amazed to see the hard way, how hard it is to figure out what to say to someone that has something truly life-threatening, if you have not faced it yourself.  That’s why we-survivors have a secret code to use when we talk to each other, at support group meetings for example… so, here goes:

Do not tell me “don’t worry”.  I have to summon up all my patience to keep from screaming to the seven skies that yes, I know the world will still go round if I die.  I know you do not realize it, but since I know the truth, it sounds insensitive and cruel.

Do not tell me it is “normal” to worry, as all pamphlets we get at the hospital say.  I want to live even if it is “abnormal” to want to live, according to whatever textbook you are taught from… Why are you telling me how I am supposed to feel?  I have cancer, not Alzheimer’s, I haven’t lost it, I know… Actually, I think this is something you have to tell yourself, if you don’t know how to deal with a cancer-person, so you go to the textbook under “c” or “w”, cancer + worry=normal.  I know you are trying to help, but if you haven’t figured it out, worrying is the most normal thing if you are looking death in the eye, no?…

Please do not tell me I have to be “strong”.  This disease needs lots of strength, so do not imply I am “weak”… 

Do not ask me all the time what I feel, where it hurts.  The threat of death is what hurts the most.  Above all, the thought of leaving my kids behind is the most unbearable of all…

Do not tell me to be patient, or that there is worse.  I am the first to say that.  Because truly there is… and it may be coming soon… 

Maybe you cannot understand, because you never faced anything truly life-threatening.  That’s why, try to just be next to me.

Just be next to me… I appreciate it immensely.  Take care of the small things that I cannot do now, I will appreciate it immensely.  And when time comes that no God can stave off the inevitable, then just cry with me…

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