Helping those we don’t like

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.

In my columns, I often suggest practical ways to help people with cancer. Giving support to nice people is relatively easy. You want to bring them soup and give them a hug.

But contrary to what you see in the movies, not everyone with cancer is angelic. Some of us are cranky. Others are downright unpleasant.

Whether one likes them or not, unpleasant people need support, too.

In my experience, unpleasant people with cancer were unpleasant people before they had cancer. And nothing about cancer is going to make them any happier.

The first unpleasant person who comes to your mind might be a member of your family. Perhaps it’s a parent or a sibling. Or it could be a neighbor, member of your faith community, or coworker.

If this unpleasant person gets cancer, you may feel some obligation to help. This sense of obligation might be heightened if the person is socially isolated which, not surprisingly, tends to happen to unpleasant people.

So, what to do?

My suggestion is to reach out to them by calling, visiting, and offering to take them to appointments. But don’t expect them to smile, be gracious, or appreciate your assistance.

We’re taught by Hollywood that cranky people have hearts of gold and twinkles in their eyes. I’ve known a few people like that, but I’ve also known people who will never have the word twinkle used to describe them.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t help in one way or another, even if it’s a small gesture and we have to force a smile.

A friend of mine, referring to her sister, put it to me this way, “I don’t like her, but I’m here for her.”

There’s a lot of wisdom and love in that statement. Sometimes we help simply because it’s the right thing to do.

 

Click here for all of Bob’s columns


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