Following your cancer diagnosis, have you been asked completely inappropriate questions, been offered equally inappropriate, not-asked-for advice or been on the receiving end of crude or just weird comments?
Who hasn’t experienced this, right?
Sometimes words sting. Cancer clunkers, that’s what I like to call crass comments.
Btw, I didn’t come up with the phrase cancer clunkers. Read a far better articulated piece on the origin (as far as I know) of this phrase by a fellow blogger titled, Klunkerland. Definitely worth a read.
And of course, we often hear words that sting when grieving too. Grief Clunkers. But that’s a different post.
I’ve written about this topic before and sometimes figure, why bother to say more. But not everyone is where I am in this cancer maze. Or where you are.
For example, I had a message recently from a woman who confided that some in her family were saying what to her were insensitive things, minimizing her experience. Clearly, her feelings were hurt, and she was wondering what to do.
What to do – that’s what I want to talk about in this post. This is not a what to say or not to say post. It’s a “what do you do when you hear comments that bug you” post.
Usually, it’s assumed that people who say this stuff mean well, which is generally the case. And cancer people certainly don’t want others tip-toeing around worrying all the time about what to say or not to say.
But when words that sting are said to you, this doesn’t mean you have to keep quiet, shrug them off and stew silently. No, it does not.
So, what should you do?
We’ll get to that, but first…
Here are a few Cancer Clunkers that have been said to me:
Well, at least you got the good cancer.
Did they have to take ’em both off?
God never gives you more than you can handle.
At least you get a free boob job out of the deal, that’s kind of a nice perk.
You’re gonna go bigger, right?
Everything’s back to normal by now isn’t it?
And here are a few clunkers others have heard and shared:
You didn’t need chemo, so you’re lucky.
You must’ve had the easy chemo since you didn’t even lose your hair.
Chemo’s not that bad now days is it?
Lucky you, you only had to have a lumpectomy.
I hear radiation is easy.
Funny, you don’t look sick.
Breast cancer? But you’re a man.
Breast cancer is preventable these days isn’t it, what happened?
You must have done something to cause your cancer (or cause it to recur).
Did you forget to have your mammogram?
You’ll surely beat this if you just stay positive and fight hard. (Can you imagine hearing this one when you’re Stage IV?)
When will you finish treatment? (And yes, this is said to stage IV patients. Talk about a clunker!)
You’ll be fine.
And the absolute prize clunker of them all:
People don’t die from breast cancer anymore do they?
I’m guessing you get my drift.
Sometimes it’s easier to remain silent and let crazy, half-baked comments slide right past you. Sometimes you’re feeling too vulnerable (or too tired) to speak up. It’s easier, at least in the moment, to keep quiet.
But like so many times, easier isn’t always better. Besides keeping quiet and stuffing down feelings takes energy too, and who in the throws of cancer has energy to spare for stuffing down and pretending?
Of course, we all pretend sometimes because we have to, but this isn’t about those times.
It also should be noted that most people do rise to the occasion and offer wonderful words of support. Those people and their words are gems. Yes, gems.
But what should you do when words sting?
Should you grant that free pass?
I could go on and on and say things like, it depends on the person, the situation and so on. But, I think we all know that. And I feel like being brief today. I know, go figure.
If someone says something you feel is out of line, you get to handle it your way. YOU are in control.
The way I see it, you basically have the following options:
Ignore. Inform, educate, enlighten. Or just let it rip. You decide. But you definitely do not have to keep quiet.
Free passes are optional. (Really, they are.)
Share a cancer or a grief clunker you’ve heard.
How do you generally respond to cancer/grief clunkers?
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