Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cancer Sucks and Some People are Idiots

Warning: this post is going to be a little more personal than you might be used to in this forum. If that upsets you or makes you feel uncomfortable then perhaps that's the point. I promise not to make a habit of it.

My wife has Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. It's not been a pleasant experience for anyone but we're coping and we hope to get through this just fine. I'm not looking for sympathy and neither am I looking for advice but I am interested in dispensing just a little.

When some people (and I'm not talking about any of our close friends) find out that she has cancer, it seems like they just can't help but offer unsolicited advice.

One gentlemen, a long-time distant acquaintance of my parents, talked my ear off at my father's funeral (of all places) and actually had the nerve to tell me that before we should settle on a course of treatment, we should FLY ALL AROUND THE COUNTRY to solicit advice from cancer specialists. I'm not quite sure what world he lives in but in our world such things are generally prohibitively expensive, and rather foolish considering that we live next to some of the country's best cancer research centers. People generally come to Seattle seeking cancer treatment; not go looking for it elsewhere. I'm sure he meant well.

But today something happened that nearly sent me through the roof. One of my wife's facebook acquaintances posted a link to an article which said that cancer is caused by "negative emotions". The article even listed a table of which emotions are supposedly linked to which form of cancer. Not only is this bad science (if you can even call it that) but it's downright insulting. This person basically just suggested that my wife has brought her cancer upon herself. I'm sorry but that is probably the worst possible type of wrong. There is absolutely no science behind this idea. Perhaps next this person will be suggesting that space aliens have injected tracking devices in my wife's cancer cells. (I've decided not to post a link to this article because I don't want to give it any more exposure.)

People. If you have a friend who is suffering from cancer (or some other life threatening disease) the best thing you can do is just be their friend, let them know that you are willing to offer help and support if it's requested and then leave it at that. Your friend doesn't want you to offer medical advice. She doesn't want you to suggest a doctor, a cause or a cure. And she sure as hell doesn't want you to suggest that her cancer is her fault!

Thank you for indulging my little detour. I promise to go back to the fun stuff next time.


At 2:11 PM, July 29, 2010, Blogger Bijan Parsia said...

Not uncommon with misfortunes, disabilities, etc.

I have arthritis (since I was 30). My first flare was rather severe (lots of pain, trouble walking, etc.) I was told:

* To take glucosimine (at best, not for my kind of arthritis (inflammatory) and, more realistically, nonsense).

* That it was due to what I ate (told to me by a supermarket checker who was sorta a friend). Thanks!

* That it was because of my pets (African pygmy hedgehogs). Again thanks! That my father and brother had a similar arthritis didn't weigh in at all. (This was my grandmother!)

* I had the proprietor of our then fav sushi and noodle place *grab my hand* and proceed to "massage" (i.e., beat the hell out of it). That hurt for HOURS afterward.


I am perpetually amazed at what people will do or say. The best part for me is how loads of them, when confronted, will double down. Amazing.


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