A woman looking annoyed and crowded by unhelpful advice from all directions

When Everyone Else Tells You How To Cancer

You are a cancer warrior! You are a survivor! You are a fighter! You are a one-eyed-one-horned-flying-purple-people-eater!

Everyone has their advice

When you have blood cancer, it seems like everyone is always telling you how and what you should do. There are so many people and messages coming at you, telling you all the things you should be or must do when you are diagnosed that it starts to get difficult to discern what is really coming from you and what is coming from… elsewhere. Everyone wants to tell you how to cancer.

Cancer is an esoteric illness in so many regards, but one of the most bizarre ways this manifests is that, for some reason, people love to tell you how you should live with your cancer and how you should react. Basically, there is a constant stream of media, video, and people telling you the things that a “good” cancer patient should be doing, thinking, and being. It’s practically an entire cottage industry.

This or That

Have you ever received unwanted advice related to cancer?

First they tell you to stay positive

It begins the minute you are diagnosed. As soon as that happens they are already telling you that a “positive outlook” is important to treatment. Even though the first thing you really want to do is scream at the top of your lungs, or break down in tears or grab the doctor's computer monitor and throw it across the room until it explodes and burns down the entire place.

No, though, you have to keep an upbeat and, dare I say, happy attitude in order to make your treatment more effective. Be a good patient, do what you should - that’s how to cancer.

Your supposed to be brave and plucky

As you continue on your cancer journey the bombardment doesn’t stop. Every TV or movie you watch features what I like to call the “plucky cancer warrior,” stereotype - the person who despite facing horrendous and often terminal cancer still greets every day as if it is a gift.

With a weak smile and a kind word, they reassure everyone around them that “it’s going to be OK.”

Well, now, let’s see. Raise your hand if you greeted every day with a smile and a kind word while in the throes of chemo? You know, right after you puked your guts out all the night before, you know? Yeah, right then. Smile for the camera! Yeah, it’s absurd, but it’s just more of the world telling you how to cancer.

Distant friends and relations tell you what to do and eat

Continuing on, it doesn’t even stop from those you think would be a source of comfort and support. Family, friends, and loved ones are sometimes the most persistent when it comes to telling you how to cancer.

The uncle who keeps saying their army buddy “cured” his cancer by eating right and exercising every day. The next-door-neighbor who insists that cancer is just the manifestation of “stress and doubt” and all you have to do is adjust your mental state. The favorite co-worker who says that you need to go down to Mexico to this commune that they heard of that uses goats to bleat into the tumors because the sonic vibrations cure all types of “incurable” cancer. Also the goats eat turmeric… BAAAA!

It comes from all sides in things as small as gifts of “cancer friendly” foods to things as big as going to see doctors for second opinions because your parent or child insists on it. Those around you simply cannot resist interfering in your life and telling you how to cancer.

Even after remission, the opinions keep coming

I hate to tell you but it doesn’t even end once you’ve been lucky enough to be blessed with remission. Even then, it doesn’t stop. People begin to call you a “cancer survivor” and tell you how lucky you are and what a miracle it is that you’ve made it through. It’s as if it was all a game of chance and had nothing to do with the visceral, real, mental and physical fight you put in every day.

No, not that - it’s just that your name came up “yes” when the deities above spun the wheel of cancer fortune on the spiritual version of Let’s Make a Deal to determine who lives and who dies. Luckily you ended up with a remission instead of a donkey. Once again, the world is still telling you how to cancer, even after it’s ostensibly over.

There are a multitude of other ways the world tells you how to cancer, I could go on for pages and pages if I had the room. It is such a unique illness in that regard. I can not think of another disease where people tell you in such numbers how to be, and I have lived with rheumatoid arthritis for over three decades. Even that’s not as bad as cancer. I dare say that if you happened to tragically pass from your cancer there would be even several people at the funeral telling them how to speak about your cancer and what to call you, despite your wishes.

Remember, your way is just fine

Just remember above all else, however you choose to cancer is fine. There is no person who knows better what’s right or wrong for you except you, and that includes doctors. So when someone tells you how to cancer, you tell them how to find the door! Talk soon.

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