the people on the outside

Letting Friends and Family Know

Letting our loved knows know about the diagnosis was difficult. You will get a range of emotions and responses. For some people, they might not know how to react or become uncomfortable themselves that they almost ignore the conversation or change the subject. Keep in mind up front that often times people don’t know how to handle it and may react strangely. Don’t get caught off guard from weird reactions.

People may end up being overly involved in your ride, especially for your close friends or family. It’s hard enough for you and your wife to learn about her diagnosis, but relaying updates over and over again to people who are asking you could be too much for her. If someone is asking too much about diagnosis details, you have every right to redirect the conversation to focus on supporting your wife. Consider selecting someone to be your update person, perhaps a family member, that you update with medical news and they can share that with your circle rather than you or your wife.

Unless people went through cancer themselves, they cannot relate or understand what she and you are going through.

The response you’ll get most often is “let me know how I can help.” In most cases, people don’t know how to help so it is your duty to let them know how to help you. And please, direct them on how they can help. I tried doing a lot for myself, and in hindsight, I wish I told more people how to help us.

Here are a few suggestions to ask people how to help:

  • Help with making dinner or other meals
  • Help with cleaning the house
  • Help with taking care of kids (if you have any)
  • Help with chores like groceries, sorting through mail and bills, and errands
  • Suggesting and organizing fun activities
  • Be a supportive listener for your wife and you. You and your wife need people to talk to. Your listeners should not give advice, just to listen and be sympathetic.

From my experience, offers of support never came to fruition or things went “back to normal” after active treatment is complete. Do your best to not take offense from this personally. Again, people can’t relate or understand until they go through it themselves.

Dealing with other people

People are strange. When you interact with acquaintances or strangers and the subject of cancer comes up, often times they feel like they have to say some sort of comment in an effort to try and “help” you or offer advice. I can recall only a handful of helpful of interactions, but for the most part, the conversations were annoying or even harmful. We were told horror stories, people saying they know how we feel (YOU HAVE NO IDEA!), explaining what caused the cancer, or telling us the magic cure.

You have the perfect get-out-of-jail-free card, so use it. Play the card. Excuse yourself from uncomfortable situations. You have every right to say, “I don’t feel like talking about that now.” It’s better than punching someone in the face.