From the inside looking out again, it seems obvious to not say these things to someone undergoing treatment for cancer. But from the outside looking in, you probably wouldn’t know any better. And we know you have good intentions, but a looooot of these statements come across flippant and tone deaf.
What not to say to someone with cancer
Here are a few things you should probably – no, DEFINITELY – not say to any cancer patient ever. Not even your bff. Not even your mom. Not even your coworker. Nobody. Not ever.
Oh, did you do something to your hair?
Yeah, I got cancer.
But you look so good with short hair!
Thanks, I guess? It wasn’t a choice, and I don’t feel comfortable with it…but thanks.
At least you have a good shaped head!
What??? What compels you to say such a thing?
It’s not that bad – at least it’ll grow back!
Cool. Let’s cut your hair off then if it’s no big deal!
I could never do chemo.
Cause I had “do chemo” on my bucket list, right?
Have you tried [insert holistic, unproven, bullshit] instead of chemo?
Look, I’ll take all the woo woo stuff you’ve got, but I’m still doing chemo!!!
I had cancer, too, but I cured it holistically!
No you didn’t lol.
Well at least you have the good cancer!
No cancer is good cancer. No, not even cancers with higher survival rates. All cancers are bad, even if some prognoses are worse.
You don’t even look sick!
That’s cause when I’m feelin’ like absolute garbage, I stay home. If you see me out and about, I’m feeling OK that day.
You’re so brave / I could never do what you’re doing.
I know, this one’s tough to hear. But I’m not brave. I’m doing what I have to do. Brave is performing in front of a crowd. Brave is jumping out of a plane. Doing medically mandated treatments is just… necessary. And you could do it, too, if you had to. But let’s hope you don’t have to.
You’ll be fine!
Will I be fine? I know you mean well and don’t want me to worry (and you don’t want to worry, either), but this is such a brush-off way of saying “don’t worry about it!” – especially when we don’t know if I will, in fact, be fine.
I understand! My [much older relative] had cancer, too!
As someone on the outside of things (i.e. not actually receiving treatment or dealing with a diagnosis yourself), no, you don’t actually understand, and their cancer isn’t my cancer. You might be “familiar” with some cancer-related things, but you don’t understand what *I* am going through. No, not even if your relative or friend went through cancer treatment. You do not understand how it feels to be in the position of someone with cancer. (And I hope you never do.)
Oh, also they died.
Bro what? That really fills me up with hope, thanks!!!
Omg, don’t joke about [cancer-related thing] like that!
If you’re not the person with cancer, don’t tell the person with cancer how to cope with their own fucking cancer. I’m gonna share some dark humor memes and joke about cancer because I can, and if it makes you uncomfortable, I don’t give a shit.
Good thing you’re done with treatment and can go back to normal now!
There is no “normal”. Having cancer will always warp our idea of what “normal” is, and we’ll always be worried about the cancer coming back. I’m trying to recover and be in a place where I was before cancer, but assuming everything’s just…back to the way it was is, in a word, asinine.
Check back soon for another installment of “what not to say to other cancer patients even if you, yourself have/had cancer”. Because believe it or not, some of the most cringeworthy things have come from the mouths of other cancer patients.