I’ve had some people reach out to me and ask- “What should I say to my friend that just got diagnosed with cancer? I don’t want to say the wrong thing.” and “My coworker is going in for chemotherapy, what can I say or do to help? Is there anything I shouldn’t say?”
Now don’t get me wrong, I only had three people write to me. I’m not trying to be some cancer advice Ann Landers spreading my sage counsel across the interwebs, and I’m not exactly being flooded with correspondence- I mean you know, three. I’m just a cannabis medicated cancer patient with a laptop, a part time blog, and a lot of time on my hands. And they asked, which got me thinking about writing this entry.
The final factor that kicked me out of ‘thinking’ and into ‘writing’ happened yesterday. I was on the phone with a friend and he was telling me that his business partner’s dad had recently been diagnosed with a hardcore late stage cancer.
“So, I told my buddy to let me know if there was anything I could do to help, and he goes ‘What are you gonna do? It’s cancer.’ I felt like shit you know?” I could tell that my mate was genuinely bummed about his friend’s dad, and that he’d somehow said the wrong thing.
“Look, man, your friend is just hurting right now, give him some time. That being said, maybe you could offer to help him with errands and chores, stuff he won’t have time to keep up on ‘cause he’ll be helping his dad through some heavy treatment. It’s a great way to help. Picking up groceries, shit like that. It’s been super helpful for me when friends have helped this way.”
I was bummed for my friend, ya know? He felt genuinely bad about “saying the wrong thing” and he sincerely meant his offer of help. Hell, he had called me to see if I wanted some FREE cannabis hard candies to help with my treatment! He’s a helping kind of guy. And I don’t think he said anything wrong, he just didn’t say anything right (at least from his friend’s perspective). Instead of saying ‘let me know if there’s anything I can do’, my friend could have been more specific, by offering up more detailed help.
So, what do you and don’t you say about everyone’s favorite uncomfortable topic? Let’s throw some shit at the wall and see what sticks, shall we?
Huttsez’s GuideTo Cancer Commiseration
How To Avoid Coming Across Like A Dick When Your Mate Gets Cancer
Don’t tell a cancer story where the person fucking dies.
Yes, this is actually a thing. Goes something like this-
“Yeah, my aunt had lymphoma. The chemo was really brutal and she lost like 30 pounds, and dropped below a hundred. She fought hard for two years but passed away because the fight was too much for her. Fuck cancer, man! I totally miss her all the time.”
And then your friend who has the cancer ends up having to either (A) console you- which is odd- or (B) tell you to shut the fuck up already- which would suck. Usually the choice would be to console you, thus completely missing the whole point of helping. Doh.
Don’t bombard your friend or loved one with miracle cures.
“Hey! Have you checked this out yet?! This stuff looks legit.”
www.nocancermushoom.com (don't click on this, I made it up!)
Your sick friend then clicks on some website selling a crazy expensive Japanese mushroom, that when brewed under exacting conditions and administered in lunar patterns has cured cancer. Your friend then wonders if you actually checked it out, or if you just read the title and copied the link.
“Have you seen this guy’s video?!”
www.twoweeknocancer.com (yeah this one's made up, too)
And it’s a link to a two hour youtube seminar that claims it’ll cure your cancer in two weeks, ffs! Listen very closely now, ok? Unless you’ve watched the whole fecking thing, had and then cured your own cancer in two weeks, don’t send that link. No one with a life threatening disease wants to be taunted with the dream of good health in some wonderfully impossible short time.
“Dude, you’re all over the turmeric, right?”
If your friend is drinking the chemo juice, like myself, they’ve been told to stop all supplements during treatment. But, yeah dude, I had been all over the turmeric. And I still got cancer. See where I’m going with this?
Look, having cancer is pretty stressful and offering a lot of information about chemo-complimentary-alternative-treatment might make your friend or loved one feel more stress. Maybe they’d feel that with so many alternative treatments, chemo was the wrong choice, ya know? Hey, here’s a good idea! You could buy them a massage! That would rock your friend’s world, girl. Awww yeah. (hint hint) ;)
Don’t post bald, sick cancer pictures. That’s up to the person with cancer.
You visit your friend who’s going through cancer treatment and take some pictures together which you post online. She’s lost her hair and eyebrows and isn’t looking her pre-cancer best. She knows it, you know it, everyone knows it. The comments, however, don’t know it-
“Looking good! Thinking of you!”
“Stay strong, Pretty Lady!”
Of course the comments are going to say that, especially as the alternatives are not so great-
“Wow! You look like shit bald!”
“You used to be so hot, sorry about the cancer, lol!”
“Well, at least you can’t look much worse!”
“I’d love to say you look great, but you don’t. Hope you look better soon!”
“Whoa. Hey, have you got any extra pills?”
You get the picture. Don’t post sick photos. Cool?
Don’t constantly tag your friend on every cancer article or video you come across.
“Watch this computer simulation of a cancer cell DESTROYING a healthy cell!”
“Chemotherapy- You’re Doing It ALL WRONG!”
“Stop The Chemo, It’s Giving You MORE CANCER!”
“BREAKTHROUGH CANCER TREATMENT! New treatment can CURE YOUR CANCER!”
Let me just show you what it’s like in the brain of someone with cancer. And by ’someone’ I mean ‘me’.
Cancer, cancer, cancer, please don’t vomit, cancer, cancer, cancer, weed, cancer, cancer, cancer, food, cancer, cancer, sex, cancer, cancer, please don’t vomit, cancer, cancer, cancer, cancer, weed, cancer, cancer, cancer, cancer. Cancer, cancer. Sex, cancer, cancer, cancer, cancer, weed, cancer. Cancer. Sex. Cancer. Please don’t vomit. Cancer, cancer, cancer.
Tag them on a kitten video instead.
Don’t suggest joining cancer support groups, unless you’ve had cancer and been to one yourself.
We will seek out what help we need, when and how we need it.
Depending on the seriousness of your friend or loved one’s cancer, maybe avoid sending them funeral invitations, yeah?
If you travel to see a friend or loved one who is sick, make sure you have your own accommodation, transportation, and child care.
Be there to support, don’t be a burden. Sadly this has to be said. Get your own rental car, cook meals, don’t be a dick. Help.
Ok, so now we can move on to the do’s.
I think that the most important thing to remember is BE SPECIFIC with your offers of help. Don’t be all open ended like my friend when he said (and meant!) “Let me know if there’s anything I can do help.” Get specific on their cancer-having arses. Here ya go-
Do offer to bring precooked meals.
This is a huge one. Cooking is a big daily task, and nutrition is a crucial element in health, so put some grub on the table. Set up a food train of people who can bring tasty, healthy meals. Check and see if there are any dietary restrictions. My family signed up for a free program that delivers pre-cooked meals for four days of the week, and it’s a massive help. All that time spent on cooking and clean up can now be spent resting and relaxing with the fam. Result!
Do offer to run errands.
Groceries, post office, dry cleaning, whatever. It’s the mundane, everyday stuff that gets pushed aside because there’s not enough time. You can really help. Maybe shoot your friend or their spouse a text-
“Hey, I’m out and about running errands. Need anything from the grocery store? Pharmacy? Wanna hang out a bit?”
Boom! Help given successfully.
Do offer to help with child care.
Take their children to do something fun, ya know? It’s good for the kids to get a break from ‘sick world’ (which is stressful for them), and the adults can relax a bit too. Keeping my kids as happy as I can is a major motivator for me as I go through this shit. You can totally help in this area.
Do offer to help with chores.
If you show up at your friend’s house to clean their toilet, you will have a friend for life. If you have some handyman skills, all the better. If you don’t have time to physically clean or fix stuff, then send them a cleaning service as an alternative. And don’t just do it once either, keep helping throughout your friend’s whole treatment. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate help with cleaning. It’s huge.
Do help financially.
You know what sucks? Not being able to properly support your family. Yeah, there’s a little disability coming in, but that’s never enough. If you want to help in a significant way, do some fundraising for you friend. Set up and manage a gofundme or some shit. This one is also huge.
Here’s a little perspective- I haven’t worked full time since the end of March, so it’s financially tight. It’s a very emasculating feeling to go being from the provider to being a financial burden. Truth.
The help we have received through online donations has brought tears to my eyes multiple times. I will be forever indebted to the kind folks who have helped me and my family with their donations. Thank you.
Do hang out.
That’s the shit right there, yo. Friendship, love, togetherness. Boom. Go hang out with your friend. It’s often the best medicine there is.
And there you have it- Huttsez’s Guide To Cancer Commiseration.
In a nutshell, offer specific help and follow through. Cancer patients love to hear kind words, but it’s the kind deeds that separate the wheat from the chaff. Don’t tell stories where people die of cancer, just don’t. Be kind, and help your friend laugh.
By the way, here’s something you can say that’s bulletproof-
“I’m really sorry this is happening to you, it sucks. Sign me up for toilet cleaning while you’re doing your treatment, I’ll start next week. You can let me know then what else you’re gonna need. Oh, and I’ll bring some cake. And weed.”
That’s it for now.
Thanks for reading. See you soon.
“...the unread voice of a generation.”
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