A word about cancer and how to talk about it
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Thread: A word about cancer and how to talk about it

  1. #1
    AngusFangus is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultA word about cancer and how to talk about it

    I really need to get this off my chest...

    I have not told very many people at all in my "real" life about Angus. No one at work knows anything is going on at all. It has slipped out to a few people in the family - cousin, aunt, etc. Everyone's reaction has been the same, and that's what I want to talk about.

    It seems like everyone I have told does this: "Oh, I'm so sorry. :'( "

    I even got this reaction from the vet tech (new) who was there the day he was diagnosed. Everyone seems to have the same attitude: Oh, you have my condolences. As though he were already gone. ???

    Before I go any further, I want to assure you that I have not felt that from anyone here. Far from it. Which is why I am sharing everything with you. I think you can handle it.

    But there are so many people who hear the word "cancer" and just automatically assume everything is over. And this just chaps my ass to no end. > I know they don't know any better, but ignorance is no excuse to treat someone like a leper. There are so many treatments available for cancer, and ANY cancer, if caught early enough, is curable. At least any cancer that I know of. Correct me if I'm wrong. ?

    I have been through this with people as well, and it works the same way with them. If they tell someone they've had cancer, people always treat them differently. No matter how long ago it was. There is this horrible stigma around it.

    So, guess what happens? People who have had cancer don't talk about it. And the general public never really gets a good idea of how many survivors there are out there. I think if they knew how many people beat cancer, maybe they wouldn't feel so hopeless about it.

    I've just had it with people acting like this. The vet tech that day actually came out and patted me on the back, put on her best soulful concerned face, looked deep into my eyes and said, "I'm so very sorry."

    Well, I am so very sorry that you are such an idiot and have no idea how to talk to a client. > This was NOT supportive. At all. Really, I can forgive friends and family...but a vet tech? She should have known better. I think I responded, "Well, I'm hoping we caught it early enough and he will be OK." I mean WTH! Way to shore me up and make me feel good, asshat!

    Alright, I'm just in a very ranty mood this morning. :P Kevin, aren't you glad I'm not home with you right now?


    Connie and "The Boys":
    Angus, Yellow Lab, CGC, RE, CD
    Simon, d.b.a. Flat Coated Retriever, CGC, RE, CD

    Gone ahead, but forever in my heart:
    Crash, Pit Bull x Rottweiler x Golden Retriever

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  3. #2
    Baloo317's Avatar
    Baloo317 is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: A word about cancer and how to talk about it

    I think "Cancer" is one of those words.

    The words that represent (in many folks' minds) fear, death, uncertainty, tragedy.... just generally bad things. Like "AIDS" and "Murder" and "Holocaust"... to name a few...  :-\

    I also think that the reaction that you describe is a socially conditioned response. You should give her (vet tech) some constructive feedback around why that comment was inappropriate, as she probably doesn't see anything wrong with it... (most people don't) and will repeat it to others in the future.  :
    Kate
    Baloo - 5 year old black lab
    Peanut - 7 year old minpin
    Monster - 3-ish year old frenchie/jack, rescue
    We're Superdogs!


  4. #3
    Chester B. Dickens is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: A word about cancer and how to talk about it

    I agree w/you that the medical community (vet tech) should know the inside scoop and be MUCH more savvy in her approach and interaction with pet owners like you.

    But the rest of the general public, I'm sorry to say, is really ignorant on Cancer. It IS an immediate death sentence in most people's minds, despite HUGE advances in both the veterinary and human forms.

    People get tongue-tied around issues like this, Connie. You know that. Nobody likes being uncomfortable, and so some, to avoid the weirdness, just blurt out something stupid or, finding no voice at all, walk away, leaving the impression that they're uncaring altogether. We had family and friends -- close ones! -- do this when my Dad passed away. They couldn't muster the bravery for even an "I'm Sorry," so they clammed up and said nothing, sent nothing, offered no support at all.

    I adopt a consider-the-source attitude, figuring that it says more about THEM and their (in)ability to deal with real issues in the real world, than anything else. And thus armored, these comments roll off my back. But in this vein, your vet tech should be ashamed of herself, and I might mention something to your med team about her reaction. Gah!

    It is a shame that suffers then clam up for fear of expulsion or social awkwardness. But again: Consider the source.

    Now, HERE, in JL-ville, where we count poops, fret about diarrheas, advise on vomit clean-ups, and chronicle everything from man-goo to heat cycles to bug bites, well here you can vent away. Thankfully!

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    DefaultRe: A word about cancer and how to talk about it

    I am interested in seeing what kind of responses people suggest instead of the "i'm so sorry". I probably am guilty of the I'm so sorry. And I would be glad to have some other suggestions. It's not that I'm sorry because I think the person has an automatic death sentence.....it's that I'm sorry they are having to go through a bad experience. And that is awkward to say.

    Waiting with baited breath.........

    Frances

  7. #5
    Mirabella's Avatar
    Mirabella is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: A word about cancer and how to talk about it

    Well, in my years of hospital nursing , the physicians who told the patients that they had cancer never said, "Good news, you have cancer!".

    It is serious diagnosis and should be discussed in a professional manner. Patients/owner should be told the prognosis and options. Health care providers want to offer hope and they must temper that with reality.

    People who state they are sorry are trying to be supportive and show concern, not be insensitive in my opinion. It is hard for those who don't know the person to ask for more information so I think saying your sorry is often the first response and they will then wait to be offered more information by the patient/pet owner.

  8. #6
    AngusFangus is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: A word about cancer and how to talk about it

    OK, thanks for letting me vent.

    I know you're right and I shouldn't get all bent out of shape. The Good Lord knows that I am not the best at knowing exactly what to say in awkward situations. So now that you've put it that way, I feel plenty guilty and mean. :-[

    It really is a pervasive problem, though. And it makes people who have had or do have cancer feel so bad. And I guess I am a little sensitive about it right now because Angus is sort of an extension of me, you know?

    Baloo, you hit it right on the mark when you said it was one of those words. No one likes to hear it. No one likes to deal with it as a diagnosis. No one knows what to say about it. I guess that will never change. :-\

    Well, I hope I didn't come off too bitchy. I'm just frustrated with it right now, and this is such an understanding crowd when it comes to venting.


    Connie and "The Boys":
    Angus, Yellow Lab, CGC, RE, CD
    Simon, d.b.a. Flat Coated Retriever, CGC, RE, CD

    Gone ahead, but forever in my heart:
    Crash, Pit Bull x Rottweiler x Golden Retriever

  9. #7
    Dakkerdog is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: A word about cancer and how to talk about it

    I think people are hesitant to talk about most things that are personal in their lives and that is why people don't talk about having cancer. They probably want to move past it and not dwell on it. I think that would actually be a normal healthy reaction. Me on the other hand, I'm so open about everything in my life that I'm sure I put some people off or really surprise them with my candor. But it is how I handle things, by talking about them.

    I can't help cringe when I hear someone has cancer. I've lost both parents to it, but I do know that isn't always the diagnosis for everyone or animals and especially Angus. You caught it early and the prognosis is great.

    I think the vet tech was clueless and I think something should be said if not to him directly to your vet.
    Sharon, loved by Moose & Sky

  10. #8
    BudGirl8 Guest

    DefaultRe: A word about cancer and how to talk about it

    My mom got breast cancer 10 years ago and it was the same thing. I was scared out of my mind and when people did this to me I got so mad...

    I digress.

    I don't understand why people can't just say something like "that SUCKS!!" (because it does, doesn't it?) and go on to say "what can I do to help you? Do you need anything?" (because if nothing else you'll need a hug or someone to vent to, right?)

    I don't like the word "condolences" and if someone said it to me while a loved one was alive I'd have to walk away without saying another word for fear of that person ending up flossing with my shoelaces.

    As for the vet tech, I would tell her that she needs to change her manner of delivery. Let her know that there's a difference between being compassionate and being insultingly depressing. "I'm sorry Angus has a tumor but we've got a great treatment and we can fight this." would've been much better IMO. Even with a sad face a positive statement is better than a funeral face and some kind of "condolences." Sheesh.

  11. #9
    AngusFangus is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: A word about cancer and how to talk about it

    OK! OK!

    Now is the time when I wish there were a face to face forum, because I could so easily explain the difference...

    NOW! LISTEN! It is not the "I'm sorry" that is inappropriate. It is how it is delivered.

    The flip side: I was at the dog food lady's place yesterday. She hadn't heard the biopsy results yet, so we were talking about them. She said, "Wow, that just stinks. I'm really sorry." But it was the delivery that made the difference. It wasn't upbeat, but it wasn't morose, "OMG your world as you know it is over" either. It was more like, "Wow, I'm very sorry, but I will help you get through this if I can." Supportive.

    The vet tech in question made a HUGE, dramatic display of it. Her delivery was what I would expect if my dog had just passed away. In that case, her facial expression and hand placed lightly on my back would probably be deeply appreciated. But with a diagnosis of cancer, her face and body language seemed to say, "Oh, I'm so sorry that it's over for your dog."

    Is this helping you imagine the difference?


    Connie and "The Boys":
    Angus, Yellow Lab, CGC, RE, CD
    Simon, d.b.a. Flat Coated Retriever, CGC, RE, CD

    Gone ahead, but forever in my heart:
    Crash, Pit Bull x Rottweiler x Golden Retriever

  12. #10
    BudGirl8 Guest

    DefaultRe: A word about cancer and how to talk about it

    I should have said it better...I'm sorry is ok...I do it all the time too...then I follow up with "that bites, what can I do?"

    Of course it depends on how well I know the person as to exactly how I phrase that.

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