What to say to someone with cancer

THIS SAYS IT ALL  –  as far as I am concerned

Emily McDowell, a young woman who was diagnosed with cancer, feels the same. She was dismayed by the lack of greeting cards that expressed how she truly felt – but now she’s on a mission to help others find the right words to send on a card.

While she was enduring treatment that would eventually lead to remission, she noticed that friends and acquaintances often didn’t know what to say – and that the greeting card industry wasn’t helping.

“The sympathy cards were really… interesting,” says McDowell, from Los Angeles. ”

She can say that again – as long as she doesn’t repeat any of the usual mantras, especially “tell me how you feel”.  This annoys me almost as much as the nurses who try to tell you “sharp scratch”.  Just shut up and get on with it – we both know it’s going to hurt.

I came across Emily and her cards, googling around on the BBC website.  There is another ‘my cancer diary’ sob story just up.  This one shows a reporter sobbing on camera, and raises my indignation score;  I still haven’t forgiven Victoria Derbyshire for her eulogy on the NHS, as the camera panned round her obviously private room; she tried to tell us how wonderful her treatment NHS was.  Well, I never got the comfort of private treatment on the NHS – I’m not a celeb. But I forgave the BBC when I found their posting on Emily’s cards.

How I emphasised with this card.

Being a curious journalist, I know that digging around researching is never wasted, and looking up so many ‘miracle’ cures, I found they had one thing in common:  sadly, the person who had been extolling the virtues  of grape seeds, goji berries or whatever, had often died early.

But all the advice of “you MUST try this miracle cure” had me fuming, as I tried to say politely that I had absolutely no intention of trying out whatever crackpot remedy was being recommended.


And don’t suggest counselling.  I tried it, hoping someone could tell me how I could get sensible accurate information about treating the nasty side effects that popped up from drugs.  Forget it – no-one was keen to tell me how I could get help with negotiating the system, but desperate to ask me “tell me what are your feelings?”  Thank you, my feelings are private.  I don’t want to let it all hang out, I want sensible help on how to get up-to-date treatment, thank you.  But a look at an Emily card tells me a lot.  She understands!

If you want to eat some weird diet, I am not interested.  The only non-PC food I will touch is dark chocolate, so no platitudes please, just a bar of Lindt Mint Intense.  Now if I can persuade the Nurses to give me a square next time they dig holes in me (like they hand out sweets to children), this rant will have served a purpose.


Excellence Dark Mint Intense 100g

P.S.  The Americans have come up with a book for this , with info on what to say and what not


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