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10 of the Most Annoying Things People to Have Said to Me About My Dad's Cancer

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When you receive the news that someone you love has cancer your entire world comes to a screeching halt. It was  January 3, 2009 when my mother called with the news.

“Your father has cancer.”

“What? No! Are you sure you heard the doctor right? Did you see the medical report?”

Obviously these doctors were wrong! My father was the non-smoker of the family. Smoke disgusted him. He watched my grandfather go through lung cancer. No, my father did not have throat cancer.

After some good old fashioned denial, I discovered that my father had Stage IV base-of-the-tongue cancer, cancer in his lymph nodes, and it was huge and really quite scary.

Slowly we began to deliver this news, and slowly we began to receive enough unwanted advice to write a book. Below I have a list of the top 10 most annoying things people have said to my family during the past seven years of my father’s battle with cancer.  So, here we go. Drumroll, please!

1. We are all God’s children.  The Lord gives each of us a cross to bear. OK, what does that mean? God still loves us despite this nasty little bout of cancer? This used to irk the hell out of me.

2. My friend’s mom just died from cancer. She really suffered. Gee thanks, that’s totally uplifting. Got any survivor stories for us?

3. Tell your Dad to drink a glass of aloe juice with a drop of tea tree oil and a splash of lemon juice after running five miles every day for a week. I use tea tree oil on my zits, and it works, aloe juice will cleanse his system and cancer patients need to exercise to keep their mind busy. Remind me why we are friends again?

4. Oh my God! When I brush my teeth I spit out blood sometimes! Do I have cancer too? I’m not a doctor or God because if I was I would have found my father’s cancer. Go see a doctor. It’s at this point I begin to think I seriously need to reconsider some friendships.

5. But how did he get it if he never smoked? Does it matter how anyone gets cancer? The goal is to defeat it and live life.

6. Don’t worry, Michael Douglas has throat cancer and he looks great! I just saw him on TV. And Catherine Zeta Jones looks great too! OMG.

7. [Insert sad face] Your dad can’t eat anything? I can’t imagine not eating anything! That’s horrible. I mean I really like food! Wow! Have you tried baby food? Or go buy a Ninja Blender… they sell them on TV late at night. Those things purée anything! By the way, I ate baby food when I had my tonsils out 40 years ago. It works, trust me. I can assure you we have tried everything, but my father has a medical condition. His epiglottis was destroyed during radiation so he cannot eat or drink.

8. I read an article online about those Listerine Strips he used in the 80s. I bet he got his cancer from those strips. Or the food, do you know what they are putting in our food these days? I read that online too. This is where I pretend I can’t hear this person in hopes they’ll stop talking. But they don’t, reference #9.

9. I also read an article in Readers Digest on physical therapy post cancer. He just needs to try harder. He’s probably just depressed.  I mean he’s stuck in the house all day with your mom! And you know how your mom can be! Really with the mom reference? She can be pretty awesome if you ask me and my dad. But what do we know?

10. Your dad is so sick, do you have any regrets? Like do you wish you remarried before he got so sick? I mean if he dies who will walk you down the aisle? I have no regrets, but thanks for trying to get into my head because I don’t have enough going on at the moment.

There you have it folks — ridiculous things people say to cancer patients and their families.

Sometimes, it’s better to say, “I wish I knew what to say but I don’t, so I’m just going to hug you and a say a prayer for your family.”

The Mighty, in partnership with Fuck Cancer, is asking the following: Share a story about one moment or conversation related to a cancer diagnosis or experience that made an impact on you. Find out how to email us a story submission here.

Originally published: July 1, 2016
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