A woman going through cancer treatment was having a bad day. She was miserable and her friends were offering words of encouragement along the lines of, “You’ll feel better tomorrow.”

She told me that the encouragement didn’t help. She said that it was like wearing cold, wet clothes. Hearing that she’ll soon have warm, dry clothes didn’t make her feel any better. All she could think about was being wet and cold.

She felt badly that she was cranky with her friends who were trying to help. She asked that I write a column to apologize on her behalf.

Nearly everyone going through cancer has such days. You’re just miserable and that’s all you can think about.

This often happens a few weeks into treatment. At first, everything is new and scary. After a few rounds of treatment, the novelty wears off and you still have weeks of treatment ahead. You’re discouraged and grumpy.

If you’re living with metastatic cancer, you’re probably getting chemotherapy on a regular basis for the rest of your life. You come to terms with this, and you learn to live with cancer as a chronic disease. But there are days that you’re just worn out and down in the dumps.

This happens to all of us.

If you’re a friend or loved one, it’s OK to offer encouragement. But please understand if you don’t get much of a response.

It’s fine to sit in silence when the patient is grumpy. They will appreciate your quiet presence.

If you aren’t sure what to say, send a card that says that you’re thinking of them. It truly makes a difference.

And thank you for staying with us when we feel wet and cold.

 


Reprinted with permission of the Ithaca Journal.
Original publication date: July 11, 2016

 

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