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How People Respond to Cancer

If you know much about me, you know I’m a student of human behavior. Admittedly, I have been too distracted to pay much attention to what anyone else has been doing through certain parts of this process, but other times I have actually used the behavior of the people around me as a distraction from my own issues. 

Here are some of the things I have concluded:

{Warning: You should not read this post if you are easily shocked or offended. I’m not, which makes it possible for me to not be terribly bothered by many of these things and prevents this from being one long list of complaints. I’m actually more fascinated by the reactions and curious about what drives them.}

1. Some people want to make a joke of everything. 

My husband got dressed a little nicer than normal when we went to the hospital for treatment this week, and when my sister gave him a hard time about it, his response was, “I have to start looking for the next one.” {Insert shaking of heads and rolling of eyes} I’m not one to be bothered by that kind of thing, so I responded by telling him, “I don’t know that the hospital is the wisest place to find a replacement for me.”

Humor can be a great break from the stress of this phase of life. However, you should most definitely know your audience and be smart about your timing. 

2. Some people see life through different eyes. 

My sister took me to one of my treatments this week, and she looked at me and said, “I think cancer is making you prettier.” 

Hmm, well, definitely the people around me aren’t taking it easy on me these days just because I have cancer. 

Since no one else seems to be seeing the same thing she is . . . either, she is picking up on more subtle things like a more relaxed countenance OR she is just more glad to see my face every time she sees it. I’m going to go with the latter.

Being faced with serious situations makes us ask questions we would normally avoid. It is a great time to weigh our previous assumptions and re-prioritize.

3. Some people mean well, but don’t think through the things they say and do. 

The funniest example of this is when someone added an entire list of songs to a Kick Cancer playlist from an album entitled “Beautiful Eulogy.” Ironic? Funny? Well-meaning? Probably all of the above, but also something I might advise others to think about before sharing. 

Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and imagine how THEY might respond. Your sense of humor may not be their sense of humor, and remember you are trying to do something for them

4. People betray their true level of feelings by their response to the situation. 

Some people talk big, but don’t follow through. Some people are a flash in the pan who show up once and then drop off the map. Some people aren’t around much, they aren’t loud, but when push comes to shove, they’re there when you need them. Some people don’t care what anyone else needs or wants, they have their own agenda. Some people want your schedule to change to accommodate them. Some people will drop everything to come do whatever you need, whenever you want them to. Some people disappear. Some people step up - and people you never realized were such good friends become amazing friends when they’re needed. 

I know people have craziness in their own lives. I realize people can mean well and life gets in the way. This isn’t a judgment, but it is an observation. I honestly think these kinds of things aren’t easily forgotten even when life goes back to a more normal pattern. 

5. Some people want you to go back to acting like you did before you were diagnosed, so they can feel better about the situation. 

As I’m sure you can imagine, this puts even more pressure on the sick person during a time when they should be focused on resting and feeling better. Do what you can to support them. Try to make life easier. Encourage them to do the things that are going to make them feel better, actually make them better, instead of pushing them to pretend like things are better. 

6. Some people want you to respond by always being strong, constantly spouting cliches about faith and referencing Bible verses. 
Let there be no confusion about how strong I am or how much I love Jesus . . . however, let there equally be no confusion that I ever want to be anything less than real. It's important that I process my own feelings in my time. I don't need to be preached at. I don't need to be "encouraged" as if I've fallen off the Jesus bandwagon because I'm being honest about where I'm at. 

Just love me . . . remind me of the truth if I am speaking to you directly and seem to have temporarily forgotten it. But don't take me to task on social media or through one of my posts or by telling someone else close to me that I just need to remember the truth and I will be fine. 

7. Some people come together to become the most impressive support system anyone could ask for. 
This process has shocked me as I realized who had inner strength I had overlooked and was willing to walk through this right next to me. These people have been amazing. They are strong and loyal and are willing to fight like hell with me and for me. I don't know where I would be without them. 

If you face this unexpected challenge somewhere in your life, I hope you consider these things and make the best choices you can with purpose. 

Some days it makes all the difference. 


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