So how might you respond to silly comments? Here are a few ideas:
1. A brief explanation:
There’s usually a whole host of inaccuracies in people’s perception of cancer and the recovery from it. But rather than addressing them all and ranting at them, focus on one. Provide one fact or feeling which explains why their views and comments are not accurate and don’t meet the reality of the situation.
Random Bloke: ‘Why don't you pick up running? You have legs don’t you?’
Me: ‘I’d love to do exercise again, but looks can be deceiving. Just because I have legs doesn’t mean I can run with them. Unfortunately I’m really anaemic, sometimes I struggle even standing up.’
Random: ‘You need to do more.’
Me: ‘I’d love to do more, but unfortunately, I’m still recovering from chemotherapy. It can take up to 2 years for chemo to leave the system, sometimes even longer, and it leaves you with bad fatigue. If I do too much it leaves me feeling rubbish for days.’
You feel like you’ve said something, you’ve been honest and can leave it there.
You’ll also have done others a public service, hopefully they will think twice with their comments in future and have learnt something about the reality of cancer recovery.
2. The steely response
-Left to linger in the air.
With any emotional intelligence, they’ll gather their comments aren’t the soothing ointment to your health. This is particularly useful for the stupid advice people can give, when you really want to respond with a sarcastic: ‘What a brilliant idea! Who knew you held a secret medical degree?! I’d have never thought of that.’
At the end of the day, you owe them no explanation. Pretend to have a phone call, rush off for ‘an appointment’, chat to someone else, and get out of that conversation! If you’re not close to them, it’s likely you won’t see them for a while. Is feeling frustration really worth the effort? Laughter is a great coping mechanism. Go find a good place for a bit of ‘healthy people’ bashing – an online support group, other cancer friends – those that will understand.
Maybe you’re a glutton for punishment, but it is my firm belief that you should always prioritise your own well-being over others when facing silly comments. This is particularly so at a time you’re vulnerable and healing. With this in mind, priorities might be in this order:
- Personal emotional well-being: frustration at others is a waste of time only likely to make you feel bad.
- World lessons: is there something that you can easily share with others so they might take a step closer to understanding reality?
- The feelings of others: there are few truly evil people in the world – fact is that they are unlikely to have meant you pain.
My response is 'I give a good impression of looking well' or if it's a crass comment, 'and your point is?'
How I can so relate to recovery from Chemotherapy, yes I get very fatigue, even though at times I look ok, changed my life so much, but I laugh laugh and more laughs that's why people around me think I am ok now NOT I may look Positive on the inside but......it's inside and the worry never leaves me, but the fight has to go on, I won't let this Cruel Disease take me, I am not ready so ensuring i am living life to the full, and kick the backside out it!!!!!