Things not to say to someone with cancer

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This topic comes up regularly on patient forums, twitter, Facebook….. in fact everywhere!  Personally, I don’t tend to get too excited about it, although there can be extremes.  Most people (not all) are just stumped to know exactly what to say.  Even as a person with cancer, I sometimes feel awkward when faced with someone I just found out has a serious illness. It’s really difficult to know what to say, knowing how they might react and it’s particularly difficult if you don’t really know the person, for example on social media, you could be talking to someone who you have never met, you don’t know anything about them; and they may not even speak English as a first language (those who have tried google/twitter or Facebook translator, will know it’s not perfect!).

I’ve dabbled in this arena before with my blogs “I look well but you should see my insides” and “You must be doing OK, you’ve not had chemotherapy”.

This video was produced by BBC and shared by my friends in Macmillan Cancer Supportand it’s getting a huge amount of comments and opinions.  Someone suggested it should have been entitled “Things to say to someone with cancer” and there’s something in that I guess – although I suspect it’s just as difficult!

Personally, I think there’s no right or wrong answer. However I know a lot of you guys will enjoy the video



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You may also enjoy these similarly related articles:

Shame on you! – click here

I look well but you should see my insides – click here

Things are not always how they seem – click here

Not every illness is visible – click here

Not the stereotypical picture of sick – click here

An Ode to Invisible Illness – click here

Poker Face or Cancer Card – click here


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4 thoughts on “Things not to say to someone with cancer

  • beth

    HI.. My mother was diagnosed with NET of the rectum in 10/2017. She had chemo and radiation and she was able to have surgery and a permanent colostomy. She did really good for about 4 months. We found out it moved to the liver. She did chemo again and was going to have the tumors removed from the liver but was unable to due to too many small ones when the surgeon saw the liver. She does have lesions on the spine and hip bone now and we just found out a small lesion to the brain. She is in the hospital with weight loss, memory problems, and weakness. She had a recent fall and broke her pelvis bone. This moves very fast and it’s just been a little over a year. I am very worried now and would like some answers about maybe how long I have left with my mother. I would like to plan some fun things for her if she has the strength…Thank you…Beth

    • So sorry to hear about your mother. It’s very difficult for me to answer that question. I’m not a doctor. It’s actually quite difficult for a doctor but that would be my advice if you wanted the most accurate attempt. The grade of the tumour is important when looking at these things. Do fun things with her now, it might help see her through this difficlt period. Ask your doctors about PRRT (Lutathera), it might help. Thinking of you guys today.

  • Sue Collins

    Hi Ronnie. I’m freaked out at the moment! It s thought I have NET mets I my eye!!! Ever heard of it. By the way I live in Canberra Australia.

    • Sorry to hear that Sue. I have had at least one person contact me around 1-2 years ago. It is an unusual place but I can see case studies of it online. Firstly impression of the case studies is that it is treatable. Do you have a NET experienced doctor? Just out of curiosity, where is your primary and other metastasis?

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