A young woman shared with friends and family that her mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She became frustrated when many of them told her “At least your mom got a good cancer.” While it is true that thyroid cancer has a very high survival rate, the young woman wondered, “How can any cancer be good?” In the months ahead, the young woman watched helplessly as her vital and energetic mom wrestled with fatigue and required afternoon naps. How was this good?
I understand how this young woman feels. When my 24-year old daughter was diagnosed with thyroid cancer many people, including a member of the clergy, told me, “If you have to get cancer this is a good one to get.” I was reeling from the shock and fear that my daughter had cancer and I could not understand how these insensitive comments were supposed to comfort or help.
In my case the comments did not stop there. For some reason quite a few people made a point of calling me to share that they knew other young women who had thyroid cancer and they were doing great. Well, my daughter wasn’t. Not only did she require surgery but radioactive iodine treatment to kill any remaining cancer cells. It would be months before she was well enough to return to work.
If you know anyone that has a cancer diagnosis, no matter the survival rate or expected outcome, please do not refer to any cancer as a good cancer. So what can you say or do when someone you care about or their loved one is diagnosed with cancer?
Please keep in mind that any cancer, no matter how curable, is life altering.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now at a reduced price for e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.