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Supporting your supporters?

suekgaard's picture
Posts: 29
Joined: May 2010

Hello everyone, I'm Sue and I'm new here. I was DX with lung cancer 2 weeks ago and I'm still waiting to see an oncologist , that will happen this week. So of course I've been on pins and needles waiting to hear just where I stand in this upcoming battle.
My question is this, do any of you find yourselves having to spend alot of time reassuring your friends, family co-workers that it's all going t be OK? It seems like once they found out about my cancer then they wanted me to tell them it was all OK and I'd be better in no time..this is exhausting for me.
Also, everyone seems to have the "best place" for treatment even though none of them have ever gone through cancer treatment. I know they are trying to help but I also have to follow the protocol set up by my imsurance company or risk having essential services not getting paid for because I used the wrong provider. They seem to think I'm dragging my butt on getting treatment started and all I can keep telling them is I'm doing the best I can and of course no one wants to get rid of this disease more than me.
I dearly love my friends and family and I know I am so blessed to have people around me who care and want the best for me but how do I tell them that I have to do things a certain way because that's what I can afford to do without hurting their feelings. I try and be sympathetic to them and having lost a partner myself to cancer I know how frustrating it can be to " wait and watch" but they are exhausting me and I don't ever want to feel like I let someone down by not validating their concerns.
Any suggestions? thanks, Sue

AnnaLeigh's picture
Posts: 182
Joined: Jan 2010


I am truly sorry to hear about your diagnosis and I am sending you hopes and wishes for the best possible outcome. I will not lie and say this will be an easy journey, but it sounds as though you are reaching out for support and good advice from all available sources. This will make a huge difference in your treatment and your quality of life during treatment.

Family, friends and the people around us struggle with learning how to cope with this very scary disease and some will immediately jump into "savior mode", offering unwanted advice, and reaching far beyond our comfort zone with helpful suggestions or solutions because they feel so helpless. While they may have good intentions and are well meaning, it does give us another burden to deal with on top of our own emotions about the situation.

Some people only want to hear that you are "okay" and this is a clear message that they are not ready to deal with any other answer. I just give them the answer they want to hear or reply with "I am hanging in there" and leave it at that. Some of these people will adjust more over time and come back to you with heartfelt concern and others will not. We can only wish them blessings of good health for their future and hope they never find themselves in our situation.

Teaching others to ask US what is welcome and helpful (or not) will set some boundaries early and hopefully let everyone who wants to help and participate give something of themselves without being intrusive. My husband (the cancer patient) likes to offer the following reply:

"I understand that you are trying to offer help and support, but right now - I have so many unanswered questions about my treatment that I am uncomfortable taking in so many solutions when I am still trying to examine and digest all of my options. I want to work through this One-Step-At-A-Time in order to be able to process the huge amount of information about my cancer so that I can make the best possible decisions as I go along. There will come a time when I will want your input - but right now I am on overload - so please be patient with me until I ask for your help".

People will feel validated and appreciated without being insulted because after all, they do want to help but they have not yet seen the fine line between helping and smothering. You can adjust this statement and fill in different blanks according to who you are talking with but this one usually works in a tactful way where everyone can feel good at the end of the conversation.

Please take my reply only as a suggestion and not as an instant solution or "fix all" answer. This is a learning process for everyone, me included.

Best wishes and let us hear from you again about your progress when you are able.

abrub's picture
Posts: 1842
Joined: Mar 2010

that I have to reassure others that I'll be okay, even if I don't know it's so. I almost feel guilty telling people I have cancer, because then their needs want reassurances that everything will be fine. We certainly hope it will be, but can't know that.

The alternate is the people insisting that "they know" you will be fine, because they can't cope with considering any other outcome. I find that difficult to deal with. If my drs don't know, how does this random freind/stranger know?

Cancer is frightening; people want reassurances. Take care of yourself first, then worry about the others.

suekgaard's picture
Posts: 29
Joined: May 2010

Thank you both for your thoughts. I know this will not be an easy road but I am determined to be as positive as possible and do something I'm not used to doing and that's take care of me. I am so blessed to have such a great support network and I have been telling them "one step at a time" and that's seems to work. I'm just grateful for these boards because it's so easy to feel very alone when going through something like this in a "healthy" world that really dosen't understand the terror and confusion that a diagnosis can have on someone at the beginning.

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