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People that think their disease is the same as having cancer

Posts: 7
Joined: Oct 2006

I developed NHL in 2000, stage 4. I would like to know if other cancer patients have had the problem I have had with friends or family who compare their disease as being as bad as your cancer. Some people say I look well, so how could I be sick. Here's the one that really burns me up. My sister developed Diabetis II a few years ago. Now, everytime I tell her how I feel physically with chemo treatment, recurrence, side effects, the stress, etc.; she says she has the same aches and pains as I do (exact same). She then proceeds to tell me that her Diabetes is just as bad as my cancer. She takes pills every day for her diabetes and doesn't watche her diet nor take her blood sugar everyday. I wish has just had to do that to keep my cancer in control. I do feel empathy for her with the Diabetes, I want her to be well, but I feel she is mocking me and it just irratates me to pieces. It feels like she's competeing with me in some way. Has anyone else experienced this type of insensitivity.

Posts: 2
Joined: Oct 2008

Hi Dixie,

Yep, I've had people make all kinds of comments. I had NHL last year, was in remission from 10-2008 through now but I just had a scan come back with a mass in my chest wall again. I'll kick its sorry behind, but I totally get feeling slighted by other people's insensitive comments.

I've had people compare my cancer to their allergies, temporary injury, or even things like "my sister had X kind of cancer, and that's harder to cure, you're lucky!" like I wasn't grateful in the first place. It's totally up to you how you react though, and it's easy to get hung up on how unaware and obtuse most people are to what cancer's toll in our lives is. My recommendation is don't get hung up on it-- I know she's your sister, but be a living, breathing, real-life example of how cancer can/cannot affect a person, and hopefully the next person she runs into that has cancer, she'll be a little more understanding. Also, when you are going through treatment/coping with the aftermath, it is vital to surround yourself with people who GET what you are going through and are willing to support you through thick and thin. Of course you wouldn't cut her out, but make sure that the people who are supporting you in the foreground are your biggest advocates, not your biggest competitors.

Lastly, know that she's probably not mocking you, despite how irritating it might be :). Whatever she's doing is likely related to her, and while it's not awesome that she needs that kind of validation, some people seem to feel like a side show when someone they love has cancer. It's messed up (like any of us wanted to be the center of attention? not for that!), but it is hard to be shuffled to the background when a family member has a more urgent disease.

Good luck! Take care,

Posts: 21
Joined: Mar 2009

Dixie - I was recently diagnosed with CLL. I am Rai stage 1, Binet stage B, so I am in the watch and wait stage. I am not the kind of person to talk about my problems, however.......this is a pretty big one! In my family my mom is very sick - diabetes, CHF, renal failure, breast cancer, skin cancer, etc....plus my older sister is a survivor of uterine cancer. My mom had a lumpectomy - no radiation or chemo and has been cancer free for about 8 years now. My sister has been cancer free for about 3. While I don't necessarily think my cancer is worse, it is on-going, and will get worse in time. They are in remission of theirs. Anyway, whenever I do talk about it, they jump in with their symptoms and ills. So then I just stop. I don't even want to talk about it with them. And I think that is so insensitive! It might be different if I was in treatment, but that's another thing. Just because I am not in treatment, I still have symptoms that I deal with. On top of the constant unknown - every time something pops up I feel like, oh no, is it getting worse? I hate having to wait to get worse before I can get better. Although I know treatment is no picnic and I am very grateful for where I am. Anyway, I thought I either had a really insensitive family, or I was being overly sensitive - so know that you are not alone!!!
How is your NHL anyway?

Lelah_77's picture
Posts: 8
Joined: Jun 2009

Hi Dixie

I also wanted to share that once it was brought to my attention that sometimes people share their "similarities" as a way of letting you know that they are being sympathetic to your situation. The unrelated-ness of their actual knowledge to your plight is similar to people who will blurt out horrible things in akward social situations. These folks are often reaching out, but have no idea how to do it or what is right to say to you so they say totally wrong stuff...

p.s. I am currently in treatment for NHL and have received comments about my "laziness" due to my inability to go back to work.

Posts: 5
Joined: Jul 2009

Unfortunately it happens all the time. Believe it or not, it helps some people cope with your illness to be able to "sympathize" with you by having similar issues. This is especially true in some syblings. No matter what I do, my brother has done it better. I wouldn't get too caught up in it. Listen, nod, and know in your head you are going to be cured. Someday you will be saying, "I'm a cancer survivor." Your sister on the other hand may still have Diabetis. I had Hodgkins stage 3B in 1991. Since then I have not had any problems. A positive attitude on your part is the best thing. Get over your cancer and let her deal with her issues. In the long run it will not matter.

Posts: 6
Joined: Jul 2009

Yup dixie I feel your burden. I'm a cancer survivor myself and have other issues either attributed to the treatments or came after. My husband does same thing. If I'm limping from my bone spurs, hes got same problem and is limping too, if my arm that has the worse of the carpal tunnel(have it in both arms/wrists, etc)he has "same" problem and his arm is hurting too. If he sees me rubbing my legs from the poly nueropathy, he starts rubbing his legs too! Etc Etc I don't know if it's wanting sympathy, wanting attention, thinking he's been left out of something, or what, but it is down right irritating. I'd trade him for his aches and pains he has and be more then willing to share what I feel 24/07 with him. Just wanted to let you know you aren't alone.

Posts: 40
Joined: Aug 2008

I think you have to have been diagnosed with cancer in order to really understand how someone with cancer feels. I use to work with someone who constantly complained about menopause. I have not gone through menopause myself, and I am sure it is difficult in its own way, but it is by no means a life threatening situation. In my presence she made a huge mistake and stated she would rather have cancer than go through menopause. Well, I will never forget that comment, and because of that I look at her in a completely different way. Actually I can't even look at her at all! Only someone who has been diagnosed with a life threatening disease can understand what other cancer survivors have and are going through.

Posts: 9
Joined: Oct 2009

. People who don't have cancer & if u do they see you come to work & think its no big deal. The 1st time I did chop for NHL lost my hair & all the 2nd time I did CVP didn't lose my hair and was called a liar. I do have bone spurs and colitis stress. But there will always be someone who thinks there headache is worse than cancer. We are tough and can survivors I am sorry their are people out there who don't understand is an everyday thing. Thinking about staying in remission and so on.

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