How Do You Talk To Someone With Cancer?

It’s a situation I wish none of us had to face, but it’s more or less inevitable that all of us do.

When someone you care about is diagnosed with a serious illness, how do you talk to them? What do you say? How do you keep their spirits up, and yours, in the face of something as terrible as cancer?

I’ve been there. I was that guy sitting next to you when you were sick, with no idea what to say. And now I’m that guy you’re sitting next to, as you’re trying to figure it out.

So, with me as an example, I’d like to share what I’ve learned so far…

First, it’s okay to talk about the disease. I’m dealing with this thing – it’s a fact you really can’t avoid. So it’s okay to ask how I’m feeling, physically or mentally or emotionally. If I’m hurting, it’s okay to talk about the nausea or vomiting or whatever symptoms I’m going through. You’re invested in my well being, so share it.

Second, it’s okay to not talk about the disease. As much as I know I can’t truly avoid it, sometimes I’d like to pretend I can. And you’ll figure out pretty quickly when those times are. So, talk about what’s going on in your life. Talk about your work. Talk about your family. Talk about that show you’re in. Talk about books you’ve read. Talk about that show on Netflix you really like. Give me things to write. Give me grief about my klutziness (and if you’ve known me long enough, you know I’ll give you a lot of material). Play cards with me. You can even gripe about the weather (and it’s 20 degrees as I’m writing this, which is reason enough to gripe in San Antonio). Life isn’t normal for me, so I appreciate the effort to carry on like it is.

And that’s the most important thing: treat me like the guy I used to be. I know my life has changed. I have cancer. But I don’t want to feel like I’m just That Guy With Cancer now. I want to be Lee. I miss being Lee. So when you call, when you text or FB me, when you stop by, just remember the way you used to talk to me before I was diagnosed, and keep doing that.

For anyone who’s asked if there’s anything I need… I think I need that the most.

Thanks as always for following along. Love you all…

A Quick Note About Future Posts

When I first announced my diagnosis on Facebook, I wrote that I didn’t want people to see me as That Guy With Cancer. I was still Plain Old Lee. I didn’t want that disease to define me.

And that’s why I’ve only written two posts about it in the last four months. I didn’t want this to become That Cancer Blog.

But I’ve had so many people respond to my updates. So many people thanking me for my bravery and strength. Personally, I don’t feel particularly strong or brave, but it means a lot to me that so many of you see that in me.

What I am, of course, without dispute, is a writer. And from the beginning, I knew I’d have to use what voice I have to get through this. I knew that I’d have to use my experience to help others.

A few of you know that I’ve been working on a long form project. Trying to share my story in my way. I don’t quite know if the shape it’s taking now will be its ultimate form, but it has helped me deal with the mental and emotional issues that come with this whole cancer thing.

But while and until that comes to fruition, I think I’ll be writing a little more on the blog. I’ll still do my best to keep my original focus on the arts and pop culture, but be ready for a brief update here, a definition there, when I feel like I have something to contribute. When I feel like I can help.

I hope you’ll read these posts. I hope you like them. And most of all, if you know someone who might be going through the same experience, I hope you’ll share them. I want your friends, your family, your loved ones to know what you all have reminded me time and again: that we’re not alone.

Thank you.