Cancer is taboo. Cancer is still associated to death and the fear of the illness can sometimes lead to uneasy reactions. It is a very scary diagnosis for the patient and so it is for the family, friends, colleagues and people around. The difference is that the patient has to deal with it, the others have the choice.Read More
From the patient perspective
We all heard about fellow patients or experienced ourselves “strange” reactions.
In the vast majority of the cases, family and friends are not just supportive but literally hold you in your moments of down.
It is obvious that it isn’t easy for them to hear the bad news. I know of patients whose partner runaway, some others had colleagues avoiding them. This is maybe extreme however it is a fact that in many instances, people don’t know how to react when someone they know is diagnosed.
In my case, since I was fine and somehow accepted the situation quite fast, whenever I sensed a friend was uncomfortable, I tried to ease their approach. I often called the ones who had sent me messages. Just to reassure them, just to say I was fine and we could have a normal chat. Yes, I was treated for Cancer and could openly talk about it but Cancer wouldn’t define me. But for some the fear of what our baldness represents is too stressful. I covered my bald hair for them more than for me. I felt that, sometimes, they were surprised by my reaction, maybe they were expecting me to react with more negatively. They just didn’t know how to deal with my smile.
Then, there are the reactions from the people who find out by coincidence seeing you bald with no eyebrows etc. Scenarios vary in that case:
- Some genuinely don’t recognize you and empathize eventually with kind words,
- Some get quite emotional as you remind them bad memories and will touch your heart with a sincere response,
- Finally, the ones who pretend they didn’t see you and will send you a note afterwards (or not) when they will have found the appropriate words.
I never had negative reactions from strangers actually. In fact, I happened to experience true and sincere kindness since my diagnosis. Some made the most stressful days, much easier than they could have been.
When people I knew hid from me, I tried to understand their reactions but it did hurt… and I happened to be irritated. Good friends reminded me to be patient with people around me, give them time and space to accept my new look, but I felt it was odd. Maybe a bit selfish or inconsiderate. I know that if they didn’t appreciate me, they wouldn’t care and have defensive reactions. I know. I know but still, I would rather have someone genuinely reacting in an emotional manner or being straight forward than someone hiding, avoiding me. It is painful to see that they made the choice to run away.
Sometimes, karma puts some people on your way for a reason and I met few real Angels… Once, I had a quick chat with ladies in a café and out of the blue, one of them stood and gave me a silent generous hug realizing why I had a turban.
In fact, a small act of kindness can make such a difference so let me suggest few things.
What to say? What to do?
If you find out that a friend, family member, colleague is being treated for Cancer.
By the word of mouth….
If you heard a friend, colleague, family member got diagnosed with Cancer, don’t hesitate to reach out in any way.
You might not know what to say but just remember that what matters is the most is your presence, the intention. A small email, message, card, flowers, a phone call or any friendly gesture is great. And it’s never too late.
In a face to face encounter…
If you see a friend or colleague that you haven’t seen for a while, bald, no eyebrows, etc. Don’t be embarrassed, don’t avoid the contact. Just approach him or her and say hi. Ask how do they feel today. The rest will flow. If you are embarrassed, a silent hug or hand check will do. In any case, be sincere and just remember that there are many ways to touch someone’s heart.
Be brave and choose to be an Angel….