The Darnedest Things People Tell You When You Have Cancer

I am a fan of David Letterman’s Top 10 List.  So,  I have taken the liberty of compiling the Top 10 List of the darnedest things people have told me when they’ve found out I have Cancer.   These comments in no way reflect the overwhelming love, prayers. carrot cakes, flowers, angels, books, warm visits, wisdom, guidance, coaching and friendship I have received from all of you.  You have kept me courageous and hopeful in this battle and I know that with your support and God’s light, I will see this through successfully.  Cancer can be beaten!

In the spirit of humour, I had to share the doozies with you as well.  So, here goes… (drum roll, please)…

 #10:  “My cousin (grandfather, cousin’s brother/uncle/mother/far-flung relative, second-cousin removed, neighbour, best friend, etc.) had cancer ……. (followed a little later by) …. and they died”

This is usually the first thing that comes out of people’s mouths.  Everyone wants to relate to the situation.  But it’s tough to relate to your story when I am doing my best to remain positive and fight my cancers.  Also, I find it a downer when I hear about people who did not make it.   It is not helpful.

 #9. “How could this happen to someone like you (or, as nice as you; or who has done so much for the community)?”

Usually, this is meant really well.  But when I hear this, I want to scream.  Cancer does not discriminate!  It chooses good people and bad people; young people and older folks, athletes and couch potatoes; people who eat healthy foods and those that live for Mickey D’s.  This, of course, is a subject of another blog!

#8:  “This is just a test” or along the same lines, “God is just testing you”

Usually this is said in a very philosophical tone, and I’m almost scared to ask the person what it means.   I think of God as a merciful being, and the thought that he might be testing me does not sit very well with me.  I feel better when I contemplate that “the Will of God will never take me to where the Grace of God will not protect me”.   That’s my faith.

#7: “How long do the doctors say you have to live?”

I find it so interesting how people can come out and ask a question like that.  But it has happened to me more than once —  recently by a cab driver who was driving me to the hospital.  Enough said.

#6:  “At least you can now take time off work and concentrate on yourself”

Ouch!  That’s a tough comment for me to handle.  If I had a chance to go back to work, I would — in an instant! No thinking required!  No contest!

#5:  “You might as well enjoy your life now . .  . “

Why?  I’m assuming you mean, because I “don’t have long to live”.   And every time someone says this, I think to myself, but I have lived fully before I knew of the cancer, I squeezed every moment out of life.  And I will continue to do so.  And then I resolve that I will prove the naysayers wrong and live a long, healthy, productive life.

#4:  “We all have to go someday”

This comment just saddens me because I am not thinking of going anywhere, anytime soon.

 #3:  “You have to account for whatever you have created in your past life”

Sometimes followed by “There is no choice.”  I am not sure how this comment helps except that it makes me want to cry.  Sheesh ! I have trouble keeping track of what I have done in this life, let alone what I may have done in my past lives.

 #2: “You look great! (for someone who has cancer)”

Cancer does interesting things to the body.  I have noticed how sometimes my face is puffy because of extreme doses of prednisone, sometimes it is sallow and painfully thin because it is hard to eat.  Wrinkles have appeared where there were none.  It takes effort to look and feel good when your body is fighting so hard.  And the last thing you want is for someone to make you more self-conscious about how you look.  Particularly when you are your own biggest critic and the mirror is showing you subtle and not-so-subtle changes that come from the ravages of cancer.

(Drum Roll)…. And the #1 darnedest thing someone said to me when I told them about my cancer:

 #1: “I know how you feel.  My dog just died of cancer” 

This was the dooziest of the doozy comments I got from a server at a local breakfast establishment.  I was so speechless, I just looked at her.  Since then, this comment has provided me with many moments of merriment!  And I continue to be good friends with this server who sneaks me a free milkshake every time she sees me (because her dog died of cancer…).

This is my list of doozies.  If you’ve been through the journey and have other doozies to share, keep them coming so we can all learn together…..

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32 thoughts on “The Darnedest Things People Tell You When You Have Cancer”

  1. OMG! people are so insensitive! you just be your happy self dont let anything or anyone get you down.

    Saira N.

  2. Oh! Munira,

    How well you described the situation. I felt the same. Can’t stand any idioms, proverbs with the word death. People are using them not noticing what it meant to us. I had the number 10 pretty frequently and others too…my blood boiled each time…but the dog thing…wow…I can’t imagine your reaction. However, we get used to them and eventually do not react at all.
    That being said, I would like to see your top 10 of precious ones.
    Did you have a contact with the Facing Cancer together group?
    Big hug
    Pascale

  3. Hi Munira

    I am surprised you did not get – ” Mowla always gives only what you can bear…” so you are left wondering if I was not this strong then I would have been blessed with all things good! or is it worth being brave?

    Take care and feel better with all the humor

    Nermin Champsi

  4. DEAREST MUNI,
    I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN,I REMEMBER WHEN I HAD MY TRIPLE BYPASS A FEW YEARS AGO
    PEOPLE REALLY TOLD ME THAT “YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW”,PEOPLE CAN BE SO INSENSITIVE -BUT THE ONE THING I LEARNT FROM ALL THAT WAS TO LAUGH IT OFF AND TOTALLY IGNORE IT ALL.ANY WAY HOW ARE “YOU”- HOW DID THE LATEST ROUND OF CHEMO GO -I KNOW IN MY HEART YOU “ARE ” A FIGHTER AND “YOU” WILL BEAT THIS -KNOWING YOU, I SEE THAT FIRE IN YOUR EYES ,YOUR AGGRESIVENESS IN YOUR WORDS AND THE COMPASSION IN YOUR HEART YOU HAVE COME OUT SWINGING AND WILL CONTINUE TO SWING AND BEAT IT.YOU ARE A SUPER SOUL AND PEOPLE RECOGNIZE THIS IN YOU AND WITH ALL OF US ON YOUR SIDE AND WITH OUR LOVE AND SUPPORT FOR YOU -YOU WILL BE OK -IN MY HEART I FEEL THIS , AND ALL OUR PRAYERS ARE WITH YOU -GO GET ‘EM GIRL -YOU ROCK.

    LOVE ALWAYS

    HIRANI FAMILY CALGARY

    1. Oh I hate that “you reap what you sow” in the context of your triple bypass! My chemo went really well. I also needed to get a blood transfusion on the same day. I have been remarkably well the past two days and expect to get into a dip next week when I am off the prednisone. So I am taking advantage of the next few days when I have some energy. Cleaned 3 closets today! Really appreciate your support Immi. Muni

  5. Oh Munira, I cannot imagine having to hear these things but right now my face is streaming with laughing/crying tears at the things we say when we are meaning well! My heart, BJ

  6. Mukhiani Maa

    great sense of humour!!! I laughed, if only they knew “who you are”

    somewhere I read “everything that shines or shows as face value” does not mean these faces are great!
    some of these folks who gave you the comments could be going through their own problems.” which they cant share

    Take it from ear and pass it out from another , unless you accept them, they will mean nothing

    you cant control what people tell you but you can control your own thinking and actions to some extent even if you are not feeling well.

  7. Dearest Munira,

    I have been waiting for your Top Ten since the day you told me the theme you were working on for your next piece of writing, and dived in with a big grin on my face to read your blog… I was so excited and it felt like a special treat. Need I say that my grin grew thinner by the descending number, and got completely wiped off my face half way through? I found myself standing next to you gasping and flinching, as if I heard and felt the effect of each of your top tens!

    More than anything else it shows what a great writer you are! You swept me away with your vulnerability turned into cynicism turned into humour turned into a myriad of other sinister emotions. I wanted to laugh and cry and roll my eyes heavenwards at the same time. I wanted to shake a fist at each one of them ten darnedest things! Most of all, I want to hear your Top Ten of “The most thrilling things people can say when you have cancer”. May be you could write a manual for “code of ethics and good neighbourly conduct” to live by when speaking with someone with cancer. Want to give a shot at it?

    Thinking of you always and wishing you well,

    Deva

    1. Hey! Turn your frown upside down! I’ve had so much fun listening to the doozies; I felt it would be fun to share. Of course, you are one passionate and feisty woman and would react the way you did. But lay down your fist and enjoy the article for what it’s worth. I will take your challenge and write another blog of the wonderful things people have said when they’ve heard I’ve got cancer. I love how you challenge me! Munira

      1. Reflecting back, I guess my reaction was a bit over the top Munira. I just couldn’t understand why people would say such things to you, and failed to see the underlined humour because when it comes to you, I tend to be biased and anything that may have caused you the slightest pain doesn’t sit well with me…
        Fist laid down and frown is upside down…
        Looking forward to your next blog,

        Deva

  8. Mukhranima,

    My friend had hemangioendothelioma (rare scary cancer) ….and she is celebrating five years cancer free 🙂 In fact, we just had some pizza together!

    Fatima

  9. Hi Munira,

    I am an ex-colleague of yours from Aviva Canada. I met you in an OD HR session which you conducted in Aviva (not sure if you remember me). I was on the net with my spouse looking up some articles on blood transfusion (she’s with Cdn Blood Services) when we came across your blog (I recognized your name!). I am shocked and dismayed to read about your recent medical challenges but at the same time comforted that you have such a positive attitude; a definite requirement in the fight against cancer. Keep it up!

    Our prayers and best wishes are for you and your family as you go through the painful treatment and fight to beat cancer. I look forward to the day when you declare victory against the cancers.

    I will continue to follow your blog.

    Have a great day!

    Regards

    Francis Huang

    1. Wow Francis. I am so thrilled that you reached out! I love your certainty that I will declare victory against the cancers. I am realistic that a lot of things need to be in place for me to survive this so that I can live a cancer-free life. But I am so optimistic that I will make it through this with prayers, the best treatment and Gods grace. I am so grateful to the Cdn Blood Services. My body had created antibodies and was rejecting blood. It was a miracle how Blood Services found the right blood. Please say a big thank you to your spouse for me! Munira

  10. Dear Munira

    Do you know who this is? Nurjehan Manji. Gosh how I admire you and how I respect you and love you. You are a true Mukhianima because you are not questioning Mowla as Mowla says shabash. our family i e my inlaws famlies have gone through cancers and they have survived are living a happy healthy lives and I am sure will too. We human beings are always negative so just ignore it and live happily.

    With lots of love Nurdin and nurjehan

  11. Dearest Muni,

    I already shared this with you, but in the spirit of sharing with all here goes…

    A very dear friend of mine just found out I was going through chemo and stopped by the office to visit. Unfortunately she wasn’t prepared and proceeded to cry uncontrollably in front of me. She cried like my corpse was lying in front of her. In between the near wailing, she proceeded to tell me how the last time she saw me my hair was so long and beautiful, how I looked sooooo sick and gaunt and how she just could NOT bear the sight. It took a while to console her and I finally sent her home. She did call a couple days later and apologize.

    I personally think I look quite sexy in my baldness. It’s been a new adventure. And while chemo does have its VERY terrible days, this journey has come with so many blessings.

    I have looked up to you as a mentor sister since I was a little scrawny kid in Moshi. You continue to inspire me always. Your strenghth and resilience motivate my tenacity in my journey.

    Thank you for being you!

    Much love and BIG Hug!

    Zara

    1. I really enjoyed speaking with you yesterday. You have such a vibrancy about you and I admire how you live life so fully. It is curious that we are going through this parallel journey together and experiencing many of the same pain and blessings. Just know that I am here for you 24/7 and that you are in my prayers and in my heart. Take care my sister….Muni

  12. hello

    I know you have mentioned treats, like icecream, cheescake , carrot cake, MukhianiMaa

    I heard on CNN that sugar too ,negatively affects Cancer and cancer cells are very receptive to sugar , enlarge the tumor?so …..(not good)

    perhaps I should know that you must be aware of it…

    sometimes we get pampered and eat to satisfy ourselves…

    hOPE YOU DONT MIND,
    ADD THIS ONE TO YOUR LIST OF DOOZIES (DARNEST THINGS)??h

  13. Dearest Muni,
    Insensitive people seem to live in a monochromatic world where things are either black or white.
    Not a life having lived in my opinion. Some claim that they are conditioned by their upbringing or life experiences which is a poor excuse at best, and I truly feel sorry for them,
    I’m glad that you find such comments humourous and that proves that you have blossomed into a beautiful flower instead of remaining an unfertilized seed.
    Beauty that is only skin deep is prententious and you are beautiful both inside and out.
    Our sincere prayers are for your complete recovery and may all your wishes be fulfilled – Amen

    Luv,

    Zahir and Almas

  14. Hi Munira,
    I found your blog through Manny’s facebook. My husband (at 30 yrs old) went through chemo at PmH with Manny as his nurse ( what would we do without him?). I can so relate to your top 10 list. When i had to go into my husbands workplace and tell them about his diagnosis all I heard was “so is he going to die?” or that face – the horrible pity face people always give you. You could probably do a post just on the pity face!

    My story to share with you 3 years later? My husband is cancer free and now at 6 month check ups! Positivity promotes healing & I just wanted to leave you with a positive story that you can look forward to having for yourself. All the best!! Elizbeth

    1. Hi Elizabeth. Thanks so much for connecting. Manny is quite exceptional and I was thrilled that you had the same experience with him when he treated your husband. Thanks also for sharing your doozy comment and the pity face metaphor. So true! Love to hear that your husband is doing well and I pray that he lives a long, fulfilling and happy life with you. These are the stories I love to hear! Munira

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