I thought I could start this blog from 2 different approaches:
A.) For the newly diagnosed, here are some things to expect from those around you, and here's how to take it all with a grain of salt. As in so many of life's circumstances, we must just be gracious and smile and nod.
B.) For those that know someone newly diagnosed, take your finger off the forward button and don't send that email. Here are a few things you may want to do, but please don't. Or at least do them in extreme moderation.
1. Don't second guess, question or challenge their decision to go through chemo.
We know that chemo is extremely toxic, and for good reason. We know that it kills and destroys so much more than just cancer, and takes the body to hell and back for a chance to live. The body knows it is toxic, and actually wants to get rid of it. That's why chemo and nausea/vomiting go hand-in-hand like high school sweethearts. Your body wants to do what it naturally does when it wants to get rid of something causing harm.
We know it will make us sicker than we've ever been, and potentially do damage that can't be undone. We know it is a hard decision to make, but one that isn't taken lightly and one that no one eagerly looks forward to making. Support their individual decision to do what they have chosen to do for their body and their disease.
There are a variety of doctors, a variety of diets and a plethora of alternative treatments that are a sure fire cure if you ask the right person. But cancer is not a cookie cutter disease with a one size fits all cure. So that article you read in Prevention Magazine about a guy cured of cancer by drinking nothing but pineapple juice for 6 straight months does not apply to everyone.
When you are staring down cancer, you want to go with what works. Can you enhance the journey with alternative options, an altered diet and additional healing? Absolutely. But do not tell someone with their life flashing before their eyes that only eating some glittery fruit from a mythical jungle will cure them. If someone's own immune system can't concur cancer, magical fruit won't be able to either.
Many a time I wanted to scream: "When you get cancer, you can do whatever the hell magical treatment you want!" But for me, I chose chemo.
Every case of cancer is different, and unless you have an intimate knowledge of the disease or that person's particular case, you just don't know what the best option is. And if that person wants to take an alternative route to treat their disease, perhaps one that you even suggested, then that is their choice.
It is much easier to coach from the sidelines than to actually be in the game.
2. Don't forward, send, mail, suggest and share any and every article you come across regarding cancer.
The newly diagnosed person is already being handed piles of papers and information and giant words only doctors can spell. If you'd like to watch me do bench presses with the file I have from my first 2 months after diagnosis, you would be amazed.
The medical community does a very good job of providing the new patient with reading material. Lots of reading material. Add what Googling can spit out and you have yourself a well-stocked library of redundant information.
Even through we know you have the best of intentions, hold back on pressing the forward button. Just because an article has the word "cancer" in it, doesn't mean it's going to be relative to our situation. God bless all of you who sent me information, as I know your heart was in the very best place. But in all honesty, 90% of it went unread. Partly because I knew it was irrelevant, but mainly because I was so overrun with information on cancer that I just couldn't find the time or the desire to read any more about it. So much of the information put out there for the layman is repetitive, and I just couldn't stomach any more of it.
3. Don't forward, send, mail, suggest or share anything about cancer prevention.
You would be amazed at the information that was sent my way about cancer prevention.
Think about it.
Is there any point in sending something about cancer prevention to someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer? Chances are, when dealing with a young person (in cancer terms that's under 40ish), every single thing that is forwarded about cancer prevention is completely irrelevant to their lifestyle.
I did everything right. I ate right. I exercised. I wasn't overweight. I didn't smoke. I didn't eat red meat. I always wore sunscreen. I went to the doctor for annual skin checks and the pap smears. I got as much sleep as someone with small children could get. So not only could I not prevent the cancer I already had, I was following all the basic rules of prevention and then some. A friend even pointed out that I led a lifestyle worthy of a health and fitness magazine cover, not Cancer Monthly.
Sure, there are a handful of things we can do to prevent a handful of cancers, but I think we all know that cancer is no more than a game of Russian Roulette.
Because of the position we are in, I find that we are often a point of contact for people newly diagnosed. And it's amazing how often it seems to happen as I inch closer and closer to being a grown up. The world of cancer is so complex, yet you can find complete empathy with people that have been there before you. It's to the outside world I really write this, to maybe say as proactive and helpful as you want to be, perhaps more information in the midst of an information overload isn't what's needed.