8 Things You DON’T Do Or Tell A Cancer Patient Or Survivor

When a cancer patient or survivor shares their story, it is not an invitation to dump either your toxic positivity or your stories of someone who "did not survive" on them. Be more mindful.

As a banker tapping into my passion for coaching and mentoring mid level executives in corporates, I write frequently on LinkedIn – tiny snippets that resonate with me, that are my life lessons and that I think would help readers.

One such post, I wrote in October 2022. It said:

What do you do when you are dealt the worst hand in a game of cards?

Can you change your hand?

Does being angry with the cards help?

Does wallowing in the “Why Me?” help you win that game?

You play the best game you can, bravely soldering on putting your best foot forward with your chin up.

And when the game is over, you say – I tried my best.

That’s all that is needed. Try your best even if you have been dealt the worst cards. Unlike a game though, in life, you can ask for help. You can do a million things to make your card set a tad bit better.

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Finish that game though. That’s non negotiable.

Diagnosed with colon cancer in December 2022

When I wrote this post 6 months ago, little did I know I would be holding a lousy set of cards in my hand soon.

I was diagnosed with colon cancer in December, Hepatitis A and jaundice in January, and back to back surgeries.

But. Picking up the pieces once again.

The pic on the left is me in January 2023, and the one on the right is me today, in April 2023.

Things you DON’T do or tell a cancer patient/survivor

DON’T make light of the situation unless the patient chooses that outlook.

DON’T launch into your own story of your favourite aunt diagnosed with cancer unless there is critical information there that will help the patient

DON’T recount the story of a cancer relative WHO DIED from the disease (you’d be surprised how many people do this. I cannot think of anything more callous)

DON’T push or encourage the patient to move on. This is not your battle to dictate how it must be fought

DON’T suggest how the patient should spend their recovery time. (One colleague said I should have spent the time to trade in stocks)

DON’T bring God into it unless you know the patient is a believer. Even if they are, they could be rethinking their faith now. You definitely don’t push them towards prayer (a friend expressed disappointment that I didn’t ‘return’ from the experience with a new found faith in a Higher Power)

DON’T tell them life is uncertain for everyone. No it is not. That is why you have insurance companies loading your premium if you are a cancer patient. Because a cancer patient’s life is more uncertain than yours.

DON’T spout stuff from WA university. Not only is it annoying, it could be potentially dangerous.

Please be more sensitive to the trigger points and needs of cancer patients and survivors around you, and please do not become a pain that they feel the need to avoid!

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About the Author

Poornima Kulathu

I am a banker, author, poet and an intersectional feminist. Speaking up on social issues, mentoring and coaching and cooking up a storm for friends and a certain strapping 21 year old boy are what read more...

19 Posts | 45,879 Views

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