Mind Your Language

More often than not it’s difficult for people to find the right words to say to friends and loves ones who have cancer. It’s not easy to work out the right thing to say and sometimes it can come out wrong and offend people, even with the best intentions at heart.

Macmillan Cancer Support recently launched a campaign on their Facebook page to help raise awareness of the language used when speaking about cancer, in the hope to start a conversation and make it easier for those in the cancer community.

Even though I can often use this language myself it can prove problematic. I am not ‘brave’ because I have cancer, I have no choice in the matter, and I didn’t decide on the path my life has taken. It’s not something I would have gone into voluntarily, and trying to stay alive is not a choice. It’s isn’t as though I am picking if I should have jam or peanut butter on my toast in the morning.

People telling me to ‘keep positive’ implies I am not allowed to show how scared I am, and therefore show weakness. I’ve been trying my best to positive for years, but do moments of sadness show that I am weak and negative? It took me a long time to accept I needed help in the form of antidepressants, and I think part of that is the expectation that just being positive would be enough to help me through. News flash: cancer doesn’t care if I am positive, or anyone else for that matter. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. Yes, It doesn’t wonders for my mental health to be in a good frame of mind, but this suggests those with negative mindsets die from cancer, or their symptoms will progress, and if a person keeps positive they will one day walk free. Are the people who live the only ones that fight hard enough to stay alive? Wrong.

I am positive the majority of the time, but I have stage 4 cancer and there is no chance I will live my life without this burden, and I continue to learn to live with it as best I can. I am just getting on with my life, going to work, coming home and attempting to be normal (whatever that is!). I am doing the best I can, but sometimes the language used suggests I am just not trying hard enough!

I don’t look like a typical cancer patient and present; I have my own hair and am able to hide my portacath and surgery scars easily. When I explain my situation to new people they often seem shocked, maybe I don’t look ill enough to be a cancer patient? Especially a stage 4 cancer patient who has metastatic cancer that has spread to multiple organs. What does cancer look like anyway? Its not like an identity parade to spot a criminal. I don’t look disabled but I have a free bus pass and monthly disability benefits just the same as others who have a physical disability.

I might look well on the outside, but looks can be deceiving, so I always try keep in mind that I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you never know what’s happening underneath. If someone looks tired I’ll try to ask them what they’ve been up to, rather than tell them they look like they’ve not slept for days, it doesn’t aways help to be told you look crap!

I am not annoyed at others for saying something that might come across as insensitive, it’s not exactly straight forward and it all depends how I feel on any given day. Macmillan’s aim is to help change the way cancer is spoken about to make it better for those going through it. In the time is taken me to write this post I’ve seen two of their support adverts on television, so well done to Macmillan for continuing to raise awareness and helping others avoid a classic case of foot in mouth!

18 thoughts on “Mind Your Language

  1. Oh my goodness… this is soooo on point, so real, and so very much needed. Thank you for your words, your honesty, and for expressing this for so many people (and their family members) who are also experiencing this. May I please republish this on FB in a Stage 4 Melanoma group and another group called Melahomies (Melanoma support group)? Again… thank you and know that you are in my thoughts / prayers.

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    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great blog post! I often work with stroke patients who have varying degrees of cancer and it’s often so hard to find the right language to use. The last thing I want to do is patronise them with the whole positivity speal! We often end up chatting about football, gardening, Stritcly come dancing and anything else that’s ‘normal’! Good social interactions may not cure the cancer, but sometimes people just want to take the C word and make it as small as humanly possible.

    Your posts are a fantastic insight especially to those in need: I’ll be sure to point them towards your blog! Keep fighting! X

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A really well written piece.I had similar thoughts in hospital about how people perceive me. At one point I was not on a drip but the other 5 guys on the ward were. But I was /am to I’ll to have treatment. Would others think that?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Jolene, l think you’re spot on with your comments, and it’s nice to know that you understand that sometimes people say things but only with good intentions, so it’s good that Cancer research has produced something that will help everyone. Hope you’re feeling less tired today. As always, love and support. Bob x

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Couldn’t have said it better myself. As someone who is also stage 4 cancer I want to scream sometimes at those who say, “look how far you’ve come” or this time last year we thought we’d lose you! Or you look so well !!! It’s really hard to wake up every day and be positive and sometimes you just want to stay in bed and hide but you feel you have to put in a brave face and pretend you are ok for fear of upsetting the folk around you. Like you say this isn’t the path chosen but it is the path we have been dealt.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor in october 2018.
    I am finding the emotional changes very difficult and search the Internet for answers.
    I am so grateful for your diary, as it helps me to try and see how he must be feeling. My dad is struggling emotionally and has completely shut down from any conversation, I feel he has given up.
    My mum is caring for him and doing a fantastic job, however I feel for her wellbeing and worry that she too is struggling emotionally.
    So many of the ” foot in mouth” questions, that you speak of have been asked by me. I think it is symply because I don’t know what to ask, or what to say. I have always had a lovely relationship with my dad and we could talk for hours and he always could put my mind a rest with any worry’s and problems.
    My dad is 64 and going to be leaving 4 grandchildren, a wife and two children, all of whom love him with a passion.
    I want to talk to him so much about everything, but he just won’t talk.
    My mum finds it difficult and just is masking all her feelings too.
    Your diary has brought me great comfort and I just wanted to thankyou. I feel that reading your words is like reading what my dad is thinking, without having to ask.
    Thankyou xxxx
    I hope you read this comment and get back so much love that I am sending you 💗

    Liked by 1 person

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