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Common Phrases

Bob Riter is the retired Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appeared regularly in the Ithaca Journal and on OncoLink. He can be reached at bobriter@gmail.com.

A collection of Bob’s columns, When Your Life is Touched by Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care, is available in bookstores nationwide and through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. All royalties from the sale of the book come to the Cancer Resource Center.

I’ve worked at the Cancer Resource Center for more than 14 years and have talked with thousands of people during that time who have been affected by cancer. Although every situation is unique, I often hear certain phrases repeated on a regular basis. Here are some of them:

“I just got diagnosed with cancer and I don’t even know what questions to ask.” People often say this when they first walk through our doors. Getting diagnosed with cancer is like entering a foreign land with an unknown language and no clear roadmap. It takes some time to get your bearings.

“Treatment was more manageable than I had expected.” Many people are fearful of chemotherapy and radiation therapy because they’re heard horror stories. While no one would say that cancer treatment is fun, most people find that they’re able to get through it reasonably well.

“I love my chemo nurses and radiation therapists.” Cancer patients develop tight bonds with the nurses and therapists that provide most of their hands-on care. They are present when patients are scared silly and their professionalism and caring make all the difference.

“I’ve had cancer and my spouse has had cancer. It was much easier being the person with cancer than being the caregiver.” I’ve heard this from many people and it highlights the incredible challenges of being a caregiver.

“It was so helpful talking with others going through cancer.” A cancer diagnosis rattles your core and it’s helpful to talk with someone other than a family member. I attend a weekly men’s breakfast club and enjoy the company of other guys who are in some stage of cancer treatment or recovery. Most of the time, we won’t even talk about cancer, but we treasure our time together.


Reprinted with permission of the Ithaca Journal.

Click here to see all of Bob’s columns

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