Friday, May 11, 2012

Things Not to Say to a Cancer Patient or an Infertile

Ok, I've seen other lists out there.  This is my list with a twist.

  • (While looking pointedly at my head scarf) "Are you sick?" - Did you really just ask me that in the most insensitive way possible?  And for the record, no, I'm not sick.  I have poison dripped in the veins once a week, but other than that, I feel fine.
  • "My friend/coworker/sister had a baby, and she wasn't ready and she just wants to send him back.  Having a baby is really hard work" - Are you kidding?  A woman on the other side of the world is having my baby, I think I'm ready.  And if your friend/coworker/sister wants to send her baby back, I'll take him, no questions asked.
  • "Oh, you have cancer?  My sister/mother/friend/cousin died of that." - How exactly am I supposed to respond to that one..."Ummm sorry to hear that but I don't plan on taking that route."
  • "Maybe you should go to Dr. X or hospital Y" - Seriously!? Who I choose as my medical professional, is MY choice.  Obviously I have faith in them, why try to make me second guess myself?  How is that helpful?
  • "Eating/drinking/breathing X causes cancer/infertility." - Yeah, until next week when eating/drinking/breathing X prevents cancer/infertility.  And by the way, did you just say that cancer/infertility was MY fault?
  • "Why do you have to do that now?  Can't you wait to have a baby/climb Mt. Everest/travel the world?" - Why should I wait?  Life is too short.
  • "Everything happens for a reason./He always has a plan." - What possible reason could there be for my cancer and my childlessness.  His plan sucks.
  • "Life isn't fair." - You're preachin' to the choir.
  • "Think positive thoughts." - As if it's soooo easy to be a Pollyanna all the time.  Did cancer/infertility take away my right to be sad and/or pissed off?
  • "Christina Applegate had breast cancer and then she got pregnant and had a beautiful you can too." - Did you get your medical degree from Dr. Oz?  Just because we had cancer in the same body part, does not mean they were the same cancer.  Her cancer was found on a routine mammogram that I was too young to have and it was discovered at a MUCH EARLIER STAGE!!!  Another woman's fertility post-cancer has NOTHING TO DO WITH MINE!!!
  • "Have you thought about adoption?" - Adoption? What's that?  Come on, do you really think that if we thought adoption was a viable option for us, that we would be having a woman on the other side of the world, that we have never met, or seen, or spoken to carry our baby for a country ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD?


  1. Maggie I love that you wrote this! I can relate with so many of the comments you made. I think people are so uncomfortable when they see examples of the fragility of life that they say these things not to make you feel better , but to make themselves feel better. It comes across so insensitively that they should either just close their mouths or talk about the weather. Cant wait to hear upcoming news for you. All the best

  2. Reading this kind of makes me think I may have goofed! Many times people say stuff because they don't know what to say and its really awkward to be quiet. My work mate has cancer and I told him I believe he will be alright and I just reaLly thought he would be. We started talking in depth a few days back and I thought he looked better and told him so until he told me he has blood cancer and that there is not much hope. I asked him to stop saying that and told him a thing or too about me. Even though it couldn't be compared, he felt better and we had a laugh and I rubbed his head and since then I really can't stop thinking about him and pray for him. I liked the fact that he chatted with me and at that time I knew he wanted to because he was feeling down and the only thing I could tell him was that he will be alright and I believe that. This post has got me thinking now and I won't really know what to say when next I see him but maybe I will ask him if he felt ok talking to me.

    1. I'm sorry. My intention was not to make any one feel bad about things they may or may not have said. Everyone is different, but personally, even if someone said something insensitive to me, it was better than letting it be the elephant in the room. It sounds like you have been a compassionate friend to him, and I'm sure he appreciates being able to talk openly about his situation and his feelings. Continue to be a friend to him and don't worry too much about what to say. You are probably much more comfort to him than you will ever know.

  3. Preach it sister!! You have said a are right..people are stupid and insensitive....geez...but, if it makes you feel did make me laugh!! take care!