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Well meaning friends and family

Posts: 7
Joined: Aug 2005

Just for tonight, I'm going to be an ungreatful sister. Everytime my brother calls to see how my husband, 49, with side effects from colon cancer, chemo side effects and surgery screw-ups, (36 day hospital stay because of a leak and now scar tissue) is doing, he gives us a "positive attitude" speech if we tell him anything other than "it going great!"

Tonight I had to hear how greatful we should be that routine blood tests came back OK, especially when I expressed how those tests had little to do with the current neuropathy in my husband's feet and how discouraged he was.

I get "the lecture" any time I talk about the "real world" of cancer, the bills, our farm problems with the primary breadwinner sick, or anything else that is actually happening.

Don't people realize that there are times when we (caregivers and patients a like) don't want to hear how "thankful" we should be? Of course I'm glad my husband is still alive...dah! Of Course there are people who are worse off!...but not my brother at this point in time. I often tell him that pointing out to the man who just lost both arms that he is luckier than the man who lost both arms and a leg, doesn't do much to help the first poor guy.

My husband is angry at God right now, doing the best he can to cope with losing his past life style and scared to death. We know all about a "postive attitude" and try the best we can to keep one, but people who aren't living a major disease haven't a clue!

Does anyone else feel this way? What can I say to my brother to get the point across that we are not actors in a TV movie....positve attitude or not, things aren't going so good right now and I really don't want to hear about how fortunate I am. I realize that my brother is just trying to be nice and I'm glad he cares, but HE needs to get real sometimes. I know if the tables were turned, he would be the most depressed person in the world and the "positive attitude" speech would just make him mad...just like it does me.

Thanks for listening!

ron50's picture
Posts: 1729
Joined: Nov 2001

Hi Nofarm,
"Oh you've got cancer,well yes but I could walk across the road and get hit by a truck. " I have taken it that this means that having had cancer I am now immune from trucks and any such disasters. I guess that we should forgive them their rituals as it is their way of dealing with something that they really don't want to know or hear about. For the first few years of my survival everyone (except the docs)assured me I would make it. Since then everyone asks why I haven't died,"Wasn't as bad as you reckoned EH!HMMMMMM." Well you are talking to people who understand now so good luck our prayers and best wishes are with you(((((((()))))) Ron.

kangatoo's picture
Posts: 2115
Joined: Feb 2004

Hi, and welcome. I guess everyone on this board is also guilty of using the "positive" word too...me included. Saying that on this board to each other pretty much affirms how we all feel towards each other. In the premise of this board I guess we all try to keep each others attitude and feelings as high as we can fully knowing the ramifications of what we all deal with, having cancer. That goes for our carers too.
Having said that your message about family is also true. I don't think there would be one of us here that has not had the same feelings that you have right now at some time or another. I will admit too that there are times when family and friends voice those "positive" attitude words. In fact even today I had the comment(be positive) from a person I hardly know... they new I have cancer and I guess were stumped for words. I still say "have" even tho I am NED. Not because I am negative about it but I know as well as anyone else with cancer that the crappy thing may still get me again.That is why fear is a part of our lives.
I agree with Ron. I think the hardest thing is for people to accept that the so-called big "c" is difficult to cope with. Hell, lots of people find it hard to even utter the word. So one way of dealing with it is to usually fob it off with a "be positive" statement and talk no more of it. For example, even when I was really sick and doing chemo, eveyone said how well I looked....GEEEEZZ..I felt like crap. I used to laugh it off by replying..."you wanna see it from my eyeballs!" Sometimes that broke the ice. This is a difficult time for everyone and even more difficult for family and friends to talk about. Some sufferers don't even want to talk about it...walla!..one of the wonderfull things about this disc. board!
Try not to let it get you down, and hey, you are only human too. As Ron said, you are talking to a group of "understanders". Family and friends have difficulty doing that, unless they have truly been where we have. Basically most of them are well intentioned..they just don't know how to react, reply or are harbouring their own fears.
All the best..we understand, kanga n Jen

HisJoy's picture
Posts: 113
Joined: Feb 2005

I'm sure your brother means well, but he needs to realize that people seldom get a positive attitude by hearing a lecture about how lucky they are. Just quiet support and love goes further to actually encourage a positive attitude. And, durn it, sometimes, we just don't FEEL positive! And that's ok. Of course, if depression and fear are robbing us of quality of life, then we need to step back, take a walk, meditate or pray, engage in a hobby, surround ourselves with supportive, positive people and do our best to get on with life.

Perhaps it will help just to know that there are others of us out here who are going through similar experiences. Best wishes, hugs, and prayers,

Posts: 768
Joined: Aug 2004

Hi there Nofarm.

Every aspect of having CA sucks. ( except meeting the wonderful people here)

I don't think ANYONE knows what it's like to have colorectal cancer unless you've lived it. ( or with someone who has) And even at that, I don't think my husband truly understands the day to day garbage I put up with ( 1 year post surgery ).

I agree that a positive attitude is a real healer, but being told you are "lucky" is not the same thing.

Youo have to decide who you want to talk to and when.

My mother-in-law, who is a wonderful person, only called to see what test I was having next. Only asked about the cancer, not what else was going on in my life.

It got to the point that I told my husband, I'm not taking her calls anymore. I want only positive thoughts around me. NO NEGATIVE!!!

I was happier. He spoke with her, and I didn't listen.

I agree with the others, that this is probably your brothers way of coping. But, that doesn't mean it is yours.

We are here for you.

Hang in there. Best to your husband.

Love to you both,


Posts: 44
Joined: Jun 2005

i can relate to how you are feeling, my husband 53 has Stage IV crc mets to lungs. I also want to scream sometimes when i get that be positive speach...... DAH what do you think i am doing every day.

Nobody truly knows unless they have gone through it what this darn disease does to you mentally. All i can say is that this site is wonderful place. The folks here are the true heros and the ones who know how you are feeling and pull you out of your funk when your in one :-) Keep coming back to it and when your mad/sad/frustrated just post it and we all will understand.

Hugs to you and your Husband
aka"The English Chick"

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shmurciakova's picture
Posts: 910
Joined: Dec 2002

I think you should just have it out w/ your brother and tell him all of the things that you told us. I know when I was first diagnosed w/ colon cancer my mother was just beside herself. She was acting like I had already died and was calling me like 4x a day. I finally had to just yell at her and tell her that she was making everything 100 times worse than it was and I had no intention of dying before her! That did the trick and she stopped behaving that way. Maybe your brother needs a reality check.
As for being positive, I think it is really important, but not in the way your brother and other "well intentioned" outsiders mean. I feel it is important to visualize the future when your husband really is better and is able to be the bread winner again and so forth.....My brother always says "This too shall pass" and it helped me alot.
Just tell him how you feel, even if he is mad for a while.
Take care,

Posts: 15
Joined: Jul 2004

Seems like a lot of people have got something to say on this topic, but I just wanted to add my two-pence worth. I had hodgkin's disease last year and HATED the positive attitude stuff. I understand people meant well, but everytime they said it, I just wanted to ask "How?" - You tell me, I'll do it. But now a friend has just been diagnosed with cancer. She may lose her right arm, and I don't have a clue what to say or do. I've had to bite back the positive comments myself. I think it just comes as people are stuck for things to say. But, hey, I do bite it back so so should they!! The other day, a woman, who only ever asks me about my health in the most "serious", patronising way possible saw me and asked again. I said "I'm fine, but to be honest, I'm sick of talking about my health whenever i see you. I know you mean well, but it's annoying". That seemed to do the trick!

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