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Who else gets 'death support responses'?

Bigfuzzydoug's picture
Bigfuzzydoug
Posts: 154
Joined: Jul 2010

I continue to find it amusing how people react when they find out you have cancer. I find that there are four distinct reactions:

1. The 'religous response': "Oh my god! Can I pray for you..." (I don't mind this.)

2. The 'curious response': "No way! Cancer? Really?! What kind? How did you find out? What are your treatments? What's your prognosis?..." (I don't mind this.)

3. The 'wisecrack response': "You? Throat cancer? Ha! Finally they found a way to shut you up!" (I actually prefer this.)

4. The 'death support response': This is the one I find most amusing. "Oh I am so sorry. What kind of cancer? Throat cancer? Oh that's what my nephew had. I remember when he had his chemo and radiation. Yeah, he died so quickly after his diagnosis. he only made it like a year. Good luck to you though."

I've had several people respond to my news about cancer by immediately going to a place of, "let me tell you all about the people I know who died from cancer." I know they mean well but it makes me crack up laughing afterwards that they don't realize that telling a cancer patient such morbid cancer stories doesn't really inspire confidence and a positive attitude. Yesterday someone (who really is sweet and tried to mean well) actually said to me, "oh he died such a horrible death. He couldn't speak or even breathe at the end." Gee, thanks! You make me feel so much better.

Skiffin16's picture
Skiffin16
Posts: 8087
Joined: Sep 2009

Great analysis....

Concerning #4, when I was going though treatment, I didn't want anything negative clouding up my positive attitude.

When someone starting telling me a stoy of a friend, family member or co-worker, I would interrupt them. I would tell them up front, "I don't mean to be rude, and I'm interested in your story, but, if it doesn't end positive, I'd rather not hear it right now. That I only want positive thoughts and feelings in my head"....

I'm definitley not naive, and have plenty of those same stories and memories already, I don't need more.

Staying positive, up beat, and as much as your normal (not depressed) self is huge in my book. I'm usually always a pretty up beat person anyways, with a weird sense of humor. I laugh at my own jokes when no one else does, LOL...so it takes a lot to depress me usually. Unless I have a PET coming up, LOL, then the high anxiety mode kicks in.

Best,
John

Pumakitty's picture
Pumakitty
Posts: 653
Joined: Mar 2010

When my dad first found out about his cancer, we told my mom's best friend and she came up for a visit. About a week later people started calling us and telling us how sorry they were that my dad had cancer and that he had given up and was not eating. The funny thing was that when her friend was there my dad was sitting at the table with a big plate of food, water bottle and carrying on a conversation with us. I have no idea where she got the idea to tell people he was in such bad shape.

My mom has not spoken to her since.

Other then that everyone else was very positive with us.

ekdennie's picture
ekdennie
Posts: 231
Joined: Aug 2010

During my surgery I lost a lot of blood, was weak and my throat hurt from the tubes that were used during surgery, and I was under dr orders to eat soft foods or liquids for two weeks. so I enjoyed the email I got from one of my husband's relatives saying how sorry they were to hear that I was unable to ever eat again and that they knew of plenty of liquid meals they could send me. That they were sorry to hear that I was needing a blood transfusion and that when I start my chemo to make sure that I know all the side effects. to which I responded...I don't need a transfusion. I am not having chemo...I am having radiation. I am eating solid foods, now that my mouth has healed enough for me to eat them...but thank you for your support. my mother-in-law has been spreading wrong info everywhere, she means well, but she doesn't listen to what we tell her, and then she tells everyone she knows what she thought she heard. Before my surgery she couldn't understand me...now it is worse. If I didn't love her so much I would be angry...as it is...I just have to laugh. I do wonder how many people have been told the wrong story over and over again. :)

D Lewis's picture
D Lewis
Posts: 1533
Joined: Jan 2010

At the start, I got a lot of the looks I would characterize as "Cancer Eyes" where people gaze at you with that sad, tragic look that says "OMG, you are dying!"

The little local ENT (and part-time plastic surgeon) who first diagnosed me STILL does the Cancer Eyes routine with me. He has no grasp at all of the relevance of my HPV status, no idea about current research, and remains convinced that my long term survival rate is somewhere down around 50%. My GP telephoned him to discuss my case, and was given the same prognosis.

This is why, early on, I took myself to the Stanford Cancer Center where people told me to pick myself up and get on with my life with the presumption that it will never return.

I love the four options Doug described above. I have seen them all, myself, and I also prefer Option 3, the wisecrack.

Deb

RushFan's picture
RushFan
Posts: 218
Joined: Aug 2010

My wife and notices that she (we) get looks too, from our friends, neighbors and acquaintances at church.

Kinda like..."oh, there's Linda, her husband has cancer" looks. Looks that linger a little longer. We don't mind. We know they are concerned. We both get the "and how are you doing?" heavy eye contact questions...and we both are fortunate to say..."we are doing great"!

We mostly get the "no way"! response...

We have not experienced the death support response, at least not to an extreme. Everybody seems to have been touched by this terrible disease so we do get some of the "I knew somebody" type stories...

Good post, and best to all here.
Chuck.

denise417
Posts: 32
Joined: Sep 2010

OMG, that is the same thing that happen to me. When the ENT put the trach in, he said I would be there for out patient surgery. Five days later, remembering none of that time gone by, just seemed to wake up with this thing in my throat, and I mas mad. He came in for the first time I recall seeing him after this and said " I know you are mad and me and you have every right to be, I a so so very sorry, please , I am sorry"...OK...he is sorry for what??? OK....he didn't give me cancer, what is the deal with this? I went to the office the first time after it , and he started it all over and said, whatever you need, whenever you need it, you call me , So, I am still confused, but embarassed that I did not know what I did for five days in the hospital (y boyfriend said I was the worlds biggest bit@# to everyone,I mean bad) So, I call to get another appt., want to know why I was there for 5 days, they check for an appt. and don't have one for two weeks, they go to ask him if he can put me in, he says "whatever she wants, I will see her ". So, I take the two week appt anyway. Go in and ask straight up....what happen. He say "What do you mean, everyone is there that long, everyone acts the same way, what do you mean? I mean this ENT is just really sorry that I have cancer. Didn't know how to react to that....he still is that way. But what a sweet man, I think he really means it, he has those cancer eyes.

ekdennie's picture
ekdennie
Posts: 231
Joined: Aug 2010

I get each of those responses you listed ...then as I am the mother of three young kids (4 1/2, 2 1/2, and 7 months) I get the , "Oh your poor children...who is going to take care of them." I feel like saying...I have a great prognosis...so me, that is who. My husband when I am too ill, or my mom...then they hug my kids like I am going to die any minute...which all of my doctors say will not happen.

I also have been told about a hundred times..."but I didn't think you ever smoked" to which I want to reply...news flash...I never smoked. Just because I have/had oral cancer that doesn't mean I was a smoker. (MEC diagnosed in June 2010, surgery aug 10, 2010...radiation to follow).

I also love the "Could I have it too" response. as my tumor could occur in anyone at any time, I get the...do you think I have it too? to which I respond...um, maybe...have you asked your dentist? or the, I mentioned to my dentist about your tumor...he is going to double check everyone...which is great if it means the dentist is going to do his job more thoroughly, but he/she should be looking for tumors every day anyway.

I also love the pain response, "so and so that I know had surgery on their palate too...they said it hurt like hell and they wish they never had it done" not exactly the statement to tell someone the week before their palate surgery.

The "you are so strong" response is also starting to wear a little thin. How many times can you hear, well you are so strong so you will overcome this, it will be behind you in no time. or my husband hears, she is the strongest person I know, she will be fine. some days I am not strong...I am a survivor, doing what I have to do to survive and move on to the next day. I have my good days and my bad days, but no mater how many days pass...I will be a cancer survivor from now until my dying day. I have a hole in my mouth that an appliance covers, but I am not the same. This is not like a cold that you take some medicine and move on as though it never happened...it happened, it is a part of who I am now, nothing can change that...but I don't have to dwell on it or enjoy watching all those people who can't look me in the eye after they find out.

Hondo's picture
Hondo
Posts: 5785
Joined: Apr 2009

You are so right people mean well but don’t always come across with the best verbiage to what they really mean to say.

I was at Church and one person came up to me and said brother I hear you have Cancer, I want you to know I am praying for you. Poor system Mary had cancer she died last year what a fighter she was, I never seen any one suffer like she did. All I could think was well that was somewhat positive if you look at it and leave the suffering part off.

DJG1
Posts: 122
Joined: Jun 2010

I work with wonderful people who mean well. Had a co worker ask me what a group of people could make (food) and bring to the house as a nice gesture. I responded, anything would be ok, I am still able to eat most things, but may change in the near future. (On rad treatment #3 of 33). She responded, "Oh, my dad had radiation (Im sure a difference Cancer type), and he had no problems eating during his radiation. I just smiled, and said, Yea, maybe your right and let it go. I sometimes wonder what people are thinking, oh their not!!!
Debbie

rozaroo
Posts: 667
Joined: Apr 2010

You sure look better than you did a few month's ago! That comment was from a friend. Another was are you sure you are okay now! Can you go out now or so you still have that stupid tube. This was from a friend that I had not seen since I was first diagnosed. And I thought we were really good friend's.I have now been invited to function's from people that have not called me once since I was first diagnosed. I now decline such invitation's.
I don't mind people offering me prayer's, I so appreciate them & accept them graciously. I sure think differently & am now more aware of who & what are important to me. Negativity has no room in my life any longer.

rozaroo
Posts: 667
Joined: Apr 2010

You sure look better than you did a few month's ago! That comment was from a friend. Another was are you sure you are okay now! Can you go out now or so you still have that stupid tube. This was from a friend that I had not seen since I was first diagnosed. And I thought we were really good friend's.I have now been invited to function's from people that have not called me once since I was first diagnosed. I now decline such invitation's.
I don't mind people offering me prayer's, I so appreciate them & accept them graciously. I sure think differently & am now more aware of who & what are important to me. Negativity has no room in my life any longer.

rozaroo
Posts: 667
Joined: Apr 2010

You sure look better than you did a few month's ago! That comment was from a friend. Another was are you sure you are okay now! Can you go out now or so you still have that stupid tube. This was from a friend that I had not seen since I was first diagnosed. And I thought we were really good friend's.I have now been invited to function's from people that have not called me once since I was first diagnosed. I now decline such invitation's.
I don't mind people offering me prayer's, I so appreciate them & accept them graciously. I sure think differently & am now more aware of who & what are important to me. Negativity has no room in my life any longer.

rozaroo
Posts: 667
Joined: Apr 2010

Sorry for the triple post!

Skiffin16's picture
Skiffin16
Posts: 8087
Joined: Sep 2009

My all time favorite response during treatment, especially since it was true....

"Other than having Cancer, I'm in perfect health...."

or another just havinf finishing treatment was;

"It's amazing how well you feel when you aren't having poison run through your body, or being heavily dosed with radiation...LOL"

Now, I no longer have Cancer, I feel that I'm still in perfect health, other than a few minor quirks...LOL.

Best, John

sweetblood22's picture
sweetblood22
Posts: 3230
Joined: Jan 2010

Well, out of the four that you posted I mostly get a ton of the first. People offering prayers which is great by me. I have gotten just a few of number fours. What I mostly got was people telling me I would be just fine, (how the heck would they know?) and that so and so had radiation AND chemo and they could eat and they were just fine (so and so people had every other cancer but head and neck).

Mostly people are very supportive. I had an uncle die of HNC just as I was starting rads so I had my own family horror story playing out in my daily life. As well as a cousin who is still living with her own battle that she pulled thru. My cousin's mother in law, my aunt really would not tell me the horror stories. She wanted me to hear things from my doctors and gave me questions to ask. I have to say I was really freaked out when my uncle passed and I had to start my rads.

I still get some people that can't believe Im not back to work yet and that still so underweight. People just don't understand the severe side effects of rads that can happen to some of us. That plus my other genetic blood disorder, Fanconi Anemia, has made it harder to bounce back, i think.

Pam M's picture
Pam M
Posts: 2194
Joined: Nov 2009

I told my son I'd have a t-shirt made that said that. Some days, I got pretty tired of being told how strong and brave I am. Like most here, I wasn't always strong and brave. And how could people who barely knew me pronounce me strong and/or brave? Then I'd feel like a jerk for feeling resentful of someone's well-wishes.

One of the kindest awkward wishes I got was from a total stranger who saw my bald head ("no hats permitted in court room"), asked if I had cancer, then let me know how his dearly departed dad had fought long and hard, then said "you look like you're doing well. I hope that's the case". OK - mixed points for him.

team stevens
Posts: 46
Joined: Sep 2010

When i called my inlaws to tell them,their response was, Oh my God..that's how his uncle went, too. Mike's brothers haven't even come to see him since all of this. they won't call him because "it's hard to understand him when he talks". One of his brothers even told me they'll just wait until the Holidays to see him. he should be 'back to normal' by then.
My coworker told me "there's a place in heaven for you. not all women would hang in there like you're doing..they'd want to get on with their lives. what the heck's that supposed to mean?

Bigfuzzydoug's picture
Bigfuzzydoug
Posts: 154
Joined: Jul 2010

"Oh my God..that's how his uncle went, too." TOO?!!!!!!!

RELATIVE: Here's one, nine pence.
OLD MAN: I'm not dead!
CART PUSHER: What?
RELATIVE: Nothing, here's your nine pence.
OLD MAN: I'm not dead!
CART PUSHER: Here, he says he's not dead!
RELATIVE: Yes, he is.
OLD MAN: I'm not!
CART PUSHER: He isn't.
RELATIVE: Well, he will be soon, he's very ill.
OLD MAN: I'm getting better!
RELATIVE: No, you're not. You'll be stone dead in a moment.
CART PUSHER: Oh, I can't take him like that. It’s against regulations.
OLD MAN: I don't want to go in the cart!
RELATIVE: Oh don't be such a baby.
CART PUSHER: I can't take him.
OLD MAN: I feel fine!
RELATIVE: Oh, do us a favor.
CART PUSHER: I can't.
RELATIVE: Well, can you hang around a couple of minutes? He won't be long.
CART PUSHER: Naaah. I got to go on to Robinson's. They've lost nine today.
RELATIVE: Well, when is your next round?
CART PUSHER: Thursday.
OLD MAN: I think I'll go for a walk.
RELATIVE: You're not fooling anyone y'know. Look, isn't there something you can do?
OLD MAN: I feel happy! I feel happy!

WHAM!!

RELATIVE: Ah, thanks very much.
CART PUSHER: Not at all. See you on Thursday.
RELATIVE: Right.

Ah the things our "loved ones" say to us! :-D

Skiffin16's picture
Skiffin16
Posts: 8087
Joined: Sep 2009

Sounds straight out of Monty Python, LOL....

"Bring out the dead...."

Bigfuzzydoug's picture
Bigfuzzydoug
Posts: 154
Joined: Jul 2010

That's because it IS straight out of the 'Holy Grail' script!

Sometimes when I tell people that I'm fighting off cancer and they give me this look that says, "I can't believe I'm talking to a dead man," I feel like I want to scream out, "I'm not dead yet! I don't want to get on the cart! I feel happy! I feel happy!"

sweetblood22's picture
sweetblood22
Posts: 3230
Joined: Jan 2010

Always look on the bright side of life, da do..da do, da do......(I can't whistle anymore lol) The Holy Grail was funny. My favs are the sketches on MP Flying Circus tho.

And now for something completely different...

Pam M's picture
Pam M
Posts: 2194
Joined: Nov 2009

Used to watch Monty Python with Dad when I was a kid - passed it on to my son, who never misses a chance to say "What - you don't like Spam?". His girlfriend hates when we do it while looking at restaurant menus. Man - now I want a video night.

Bigfuzzydoug's picture
Bigfuzzydoug
Posts: 154
Joined: Jul 2010

You're all a bunch a total geeks with drain bamage!

... From the biggest geek-king of them all! :-D

sweetblood22's picture
sweetblood22
Posts: 3230
Joined: Jan 2010

Oh, you have no clue. I have come to just embrace my geek-ness. It's part of the magic of me. :) I love my geek hobbies, ametuer astronomy for one. Yeah, so I'm basically always the only girl there. I go to The PA Renaissance Faire every year and I dress up for it. I listen to Art Bell and George Noory Coast to Coast shows. LOVE science. Huge science geek. Love sci-fi fantasy books and movies. When I was married my craft room was decorated full of Lord of the Rings stuff. I had a full size Aragorn. I could go on, but I will save you the pain.

Queen Geek Sweet

sweetblood22's picture
sweetblood22
Posts: 3230
Joined: Jan 2010

...maybe that's one reason no one asks me out! Lol. Maybe that and occaisionally wearing my dog on me as an 'accessory'. :-D

Pam M's picture
Pam M
Posts: 2194
Joined: Nov 2009

Very kind of you to think of us, your majesty.

Skiffin16's picture
Skiffin16
Posts: 8087
Joined: Sep 2009

The monster so horrible that people caught the plague to avoid it...

It is the middle of the dark ages, ages darker than anyone had expected.

Holy Grail;

I fart in your general direction...

King Arthur: [after Arthur's cut off both of the Black Knight's arms] Look, you stupid B'tard. You've got no arms left.
Black Knight: Yes I have.
King Arthur: *Look*!
Black Knight: It's just a flesh wound.

Knight 1: We are now no longer the Knights who say Ni.
Knight 2: NI.
Other Knights: Shh...
Knight 1: We are now the Knights who say... "Ekki-Ekki-Ekki-Ekki-PTANG. Zoom-Boing. Z'nourrwringmm

LOL, sorry I'm off on a quest now to find quotes from these movies...LOL.

Best,
John

Pam M's picture
Pam M
Posts: 2194
Joined: Nov 2009

I bought my son the "Just a Flesh Wound" tshirt AND stuffed toy with removable velcro attached limbs.

Pam M's picture
Pam M
Posts: 2194
Joined: Nov 2009

Wow - can't find our computer game "Meaning of Life". I want to play it now - haven't for years - probably long gone. Night, Brian.

sweetblood22's picture
sweetblood22
Posts: 3230
Joined: Jan 2010

Meaning of life game?? That's a new one on me. I bought My step bro the knight doll with the detachable limbs too. I also got him a vomiting Mr. Kreasote doll too. Gross.

sweetblood22's picture
sweetblood22
Posts: 3230
Joined: Jan 2010

Meaning of life game?? That's a new one on me. I bought My step bro the knight doll with the detachable limbs too. I also got him a vomiting Mr. Kreasote doll too. Gross.

D Lewis's picture
D Lewis
Posts: 1533
Joined: Jan 2010

One of my most favorite scenes in one of my most favorite movies. How appropriate! Or, inappropriate, as the case may be...

That lightened my day.

Deb

Hal61's picture
Hal61
Posts: 656
Joined: Dec 2009

That's probably my favorite response. I ran into a lady in the waiting room of my medical onc. I hadn't seen her for years and she and I worked the same facilty for a decade or more. She asked why I was there and I told her I had base of tongue cancer. She looked at me in mild disgust and said" Eeeeeeyuuuuu!" That about sums it up I guess.

Hal

Pam M's picture
Pam M
Posts: 2194
Joined: Nov 2009

For many, it seems that the fact that they've never heard of base of tongue cancer means it must be really bad. I just smiled and said "I never had heard of it, either, until the doc told me I had it".

staceya's picture
staceya
Posts: 702
Joined: Jan 2010

I never knew what to say about the #4s which really bugged me. Then a few months ago (it must have been skiffin) shared his tactic, which I have used ever since. I work with mostly medical people, which was great and remarkable helpful, it was outside of work where I heard the negative stories. Another reason this site has been a blessing.
Stacey

miccmill's picture
miccmill
Posts: 247
Joined: May 2010

actually said to me "It's so brave of you to stay and take care of him". Wha??? We're not legally married but have been together for 25 yrs. I must say though, that I've met two nurses who left their husbands when health problems became dire and that was a shock to me.
When you're in a marriage or committed relationship, illness doesn't seem like a deal breaker. Life is a risk and if you hook yourself up with someone then you take some of their risks also.

Skiffin16's picture
Skiffin16
Posts: 8087
Joined: Sep 2009

seems like I've heard these words before.....

~JG

sweetblood22's picture
sweetblood22
Posts: 3230
Joined: Jan 2010

Unfortunately, some spouses seem to forget that bit and the bit about forsaking all others. :(

Skiffin16's picture
Skiffin16
Posts: 8087
Joined: Sep 2009

Queen Geek Sweet, you're a hoot....

Skiffin16's picture
Skiffin16
Posts: 8087
Joined: Sep 2009

We are now the "survivors" who say... "Ekki-Ekki-Ekki-Ekki-PTANG. Zoom-Boing. Z'nourrwringmm

Pam M's picture
Pam M
Posts: 2194
Joined: Nov 2009

with no other hoomans in the room. thx

wifflefrog
Posts: 32
Joined: Sep 2010

I can relate for sure to all those responses, usually its everyone is praying & miracles happen everyday. Yet usually they are asking me the caregiver is doing and I want to say "Well I feel like crap, I have a 8 month old baby, minimal sleep, work is busy and my husband has cancer", but usually I just say "Fine." I guess people mean well.

In my case though I don't know which response I like because right now there is no cure for my husband's cancer and we aren't even getting treatment, so saying miracles come true seems like a stretch. I mean he won't mirarcously heal himself.

But I love everyone's responses it makes me just stay focused and keeping fighting the best I can for myself, my husband and my child.

BonnyKay's picture
BonnyKay
Posts: 8
Joined: Sep 2010

Omigosh I'm on board with number four ... I'm speechless at the stories I've heard. People start out telling me a story ... and I think it's going somewhere positive ... and then suddenly the story goes, "... and then he died." I find myself shaking my head going, "Really? Really?"

It's mind boggling ... I would never say these things to someone whose husband has cancer ... what are they thinking?

team stevens
Posts: 46
Joined: Sep 2010

They can't be thinking before they speak. That erks me when they do that. My prayer partner came up to me in the post office in front of people & started telling me how her brother had thyroid cancer & didn't make it, then her cousin & now her husband's had come back. then she looked me up & down & said "good luck with your's" I mean, my prayer partner? don't pray for me or my husband with that attitude!

Kimberly

denise417
Posts: 32
Joined: Sep 2010

Oh how I agree, I am sure we all get the same lines, really it would be hard for even me to find correct words if it were someone else. With that said, I can take most the comments, I do hate the ones that give the death stories right off the bat, but the worse is dear family members that act afraid of me now. That is hard. I guess all part of the journey....so they say.... denise

JUDYV5's picture
JUDYV5
Posts: 392
Joined: Jun 2010

I just had a women come up to my desk and describe all the horrible things that her friend with throat cancer had to endure. (Like I haven't been there done that). I just asked her if her friend survived. She told me yes. I told her that I guess it was worth it then.

Greg53's picture
Greg53
Posts: 830
Joined: Apr 2010

Funny post fuzzydoug!

I agree with the 4 you had and also the "cancer eyes" by Deb. And the wisecrack is by far the one I like the best. When I told a good buddy who is a survivor about me when I first found out (in probably too somber of a tone) he said "Shut up, quit feeling sorry for yourself. Grab your fishing rod, let's go do something important". Exactly what I needed.

The one that drives me kinda nuts is the ones who absolutely refuse to talk about it, ask about it or even acknowledge it. I don't need the attention, but a couple of these are really close friends. I don't know if they afraid of it or if they think by ignoring it, I actually won't have it. But I don't have time to coddle them so they are the ones I usually skip on seeing if I have a choice.

Best to everyone!
Greg

PS - Gotta go as there's a penguin on my telly. Oh I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay, I sleep all night and work all day, On Wednesdays I go shopping and have buttered scones and tea, I cut down trees, I eat my lunch, I cut down trees, I skip and jump, I love to press wildflowers, I put on wome......

I better stop there, someone might think I actually do that (now I'll be singing that song all night long)

Pam M's picture
Pam M
Posts: 2194
Joined: Nov 2009

Now I've got the song in my head, too

sweetblood22's picture
sweetblood22
Posts: 3230
Joined: Jan 2010

I had the Lumberjack song as the ring tone on my old phone. Lol.

I also love the dead parrot sketch and the halibut sketch. What was it's name?

Skiffin16's picture
Skiffin16
Posts: 8087
Joined: Sep 2009

Praline He is an halibut.
Man You've got a pet halibut?
Praline Yes. I chose him out of thousands. I didn't like the others, they were all too flat.

JG

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