Over the last few months of my life, I have done some MAJOR biting of my tongue when people say some pretty dumb things to me after they found out I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in early November 2014. I am writing this not out of anger (although at times there was definite anger in my bones when people said some of these things.) but I write this to try and help you understand what these questions make you feel like when you are on the other side of them & what you should be saying instead.
Here are my top 4 things to never say to a thyroid cancer survivor:
♥ Well if you had to get cancer, you got the good kind with Thyroid Cancer.
This is by far the stupidest statement I have ever heard and yes there is some bitterness to this statement. NO CANCER IS A GOOD CANCER! Yes MOST thyroid cancer has a good prognosis and can be treated. But the after effects of this disease are life long, unlike many other types of cancer which are treated and then you go back to normal living after recovery. Survivors are now dependent on medication that has to be taken everyday in order to regulate their body, they deal with nerve pain, hair loss, poor immune system, lack of energy, brain fog, and depression. It can take years before doctors are able to regulate hormone levels in their body and get them back to functioning. You live with Thyroid cancer for the rest of your life. You have to go for scans, and live with a fear that one day 70% of survivors will have a recurrence 5-10 years from initial treatment. No part of this is good, not one bit of it. SO please stop saying it to people, it is demeaning to the battle they are fighting and minimizes everything they are going through in their life and the things that they don’t even know are coming. ALL CANCER IS BAD, it all has LIFE long consequences that survivors will deal with forever, let just all agree on that now Ok?
♥It will get better, just don’t be so negative.
My inner eternal optimist has been semi-permanently silenced for a while. Getting the news of cancer has put duct tape over her mouth and told her to sit in the corner, because there is NO upside to cancer. You see; when you can’t remember what it felt like to wake up and feel good sometimes you just don’t know that it will get better. So you start learning to not hope for it, and you teach yourself how to accept where you are and how to deal with what you have now, the good, the bad, and the awful. You whine and complain, (a lot more that you used to) but you also appreciate the days that you do feel good a lot more than you used too also. Someday I hope my inner eternal optimist will break free and start shining again, until then could you just love me for where I am and deal with the negativity for a while?
♥ Well now that you got the all clear from your doctor why are you still so sad?
My body & mind just went through major trauma. In my case I went from being the healthiest I have ever been to the absolute sickest I have ever been to being “all clear” in a matter of 9 weeks. It is a lot to process, and there was no second opinions, no time to stop and think or process any of it. I am still in survival mode, and am trying to dig my way out, so please understand that I want to feel relieved and happy—I just don’t remember how.
♥ When are you going to be back to Normal you again?
If I knew the answer to this question I would be counting down the days. The truth is after listening to many survivors I will never be the old normal again. That is a loss that I am grieving so please just doesn’t expect me to be who I used to be. I will eventually get to a person who might resemble the person I used to be, I hope that I will come out on that side an even more awesome version of myself but at this point I just don’t know.
Here are my top 5 things that you should be saying instead.
- Thyroid cancer SUCKS! Let’s talk about how much it sucks!
- I will be positive enough for both of us for now, hoping to someday show you the silver lining in life again and set your inner eternal optimist free.
- I am sorry you went through all of this, and understand that you are still sad and processing, I am here with tissues and ice cream ready to listen any time you need me.
- You are still you and I love you for what you are now and who you will become.
- What can I do to help you through this?
I cried while writing all of this afraid to be hurting those who I love so much, sometimes you have to tell the truth even when you know it will hurt. I hope this helps someone out there to know you aren’t the only one struggling through recovery, and I hope it helps a loved one know how they can better help.