Do not call me a warrior, do not tell I’m so brave, If you do, I know you mean well. I know you are trying to gear me up and get me ready for the battle ahead. The problem is you’re being dismissive of the emotions I am feeling about cancer. The fear, the anger, the sadness. You’re ignoring those feelings and therefore me, and giving me a pep talk I didn’t ask for and may not be ready to hear yet.
Do you want to say something that makes it better? Sorry, no words can make it better. It’s cancer, not a hurt feeling. What I want is for you to acknowledge the pain I’m going through. Tell me it sucks. Tell me you’re sorry I’m going through it. Offer to listen if I want to unload my burdens, or to distract me from them. And accept whichever I choose at the time, or if I decline both. Understand that some days, I want to talk about anything other than cancer, but remember it’s the only thing on my mind.
Don’t ask me to let you know if I need help. That puts the burden on me to think of something for you to do, and frankly I’ve got too many other things to think about. Instead, think of something you can do, offer things concretely. If you’re at the grocery store, text and ask if there’s anything you can grab for me while you’re there. Ask if I can hang out with you, or stay at your place so I couldn’t be alone. Or if you can take me to dinner so I don’t need to worry about what to eat. If you’re feeling super generous, send me flowers, it makes me happy and I’m never going to ask anyone for these things on my own, but I’ll always accept kindness.
Offer to take me to a doctor’s appointment. There are so many other doctor appointments besides chemo, and my sister can’t take me to every single one and still work full time. I’m not having chemo back in CR but there’s two post-chemo shot once every week, they can make me feel tired and nauseous and the periodic follow-up appointments with oncology, not to mention the other non-cancer doctor appointments, which are not rare thanks to migraines, depression, and anxiety.
Ask me something about any sport, remember my Birthday is coming soon. Send me a text letting me know you’re thinking about me. Cancer is lonely and isolating, and I feel like I can’t reach out to friends because the state of my current existence is a total bummer right now, and I don’t want to make you feel bad, so that makes me feel even more alone. Ask me to do stuff with you. I have plenty of time and I get bored and tend to overthink everything. Tell me about that jerk at work. Tell me a joke. Tell me your troubles, I’m now ever more empathetic. Remind me that I’m not alone, help me remember that I am a person, not a disease.