Finding out a close friend or loved one has been diagnosed with cancer is difficult. There are a lot of unknowns and finding the right thing to say to give comfort doesn’t always come easily. Sometimes saying the wrong thing really can be the wrong thing. One woman is on a mission to educate everyone about what not to say to a person with cancer.
Holley Rothell Kitchen has cancer. At 39 she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and “After a year – I thought my battle was over,” she shares in her inspiring video that resonates with everyone watching it. Since I the video debuted, it has over 1.5 million views on Facebook. One of the reasons the video went viral is the message is simple, done using note cards to music without any dialogue.
Fighting cancer the first time can be hard for anyone especially a mom of two young boys. If it comes back, like it did for Holley, the reality is that her type of cancer is not survivable. Well-meaning people said things like “You’re too young…” or “you seem so healthy”. Holley’s video is especially important because it creates awareness that “30% of people diagnosed early stage disease…are re-diagnosed metastatic”.
Psychiatrist Jeffrey Knajdl, director of psycho-oncology services at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska suggests there are things we should never say someone fighting cancer.
Six Things To Avoid Saying
- “Everything is going to be all right.” The fact is we don’t know and while this seems like we are being positive it reinforces the unknown.
- “I know how you feel.” Even if the person is a cancer survivor, each person is different.
- “Try to keep a positive attitude, relax, and avoid stress. It can help you heal.” Rather than give advice it is better to listen.
- “We can beat this.” Everyone wants to believe this but hearing stories about other people’s success can have an opposite effect on someone receiving a difficult prognosis.
- “Congratulations, you’re done with chemo [or radiation].” When a patient is in treatment they feel they are taking action against the disease. After they are done, fear can set in that the cancer will come back.
- “Now, now, don’t get yourself all worked up.” This is a great example of how it is better choosing instead to not say anything at all.
Watching Holley’s video it reminds us that life is so fragile and knowing how we can help someone is especially important. Have you or a loved one been faced with a disease like cancer? Share your experience with us on Facebook.