Monday, August 8, 2011

NY Times Article on what to say/do and a question

Mona Loa Daylily from my garden
I love this is sooo in your face and gorgeous...and with a close-up you can't see the weeds in my garden. :)

Recently, a friend from the Noble Circle project forwarded this link to a New York Times article written by Bruce Feiler, entitled "You Look Great and Other Lies."     

Feiler is a cancer survivor and I have to agree with a lot of what he says, but I take exception to a couple.  He gives information to non-cancer survivors on what to say and what not to say.  Heading up his "not to say" list is "What can I do to help?"  His objection is that it puts the burden back on the patient and that it is better just to do what needs to be done as you see it.  I agree to an extent...but I also find it interesting that often when someone says "What can I do to help" and you tell them (take out the garbage, weed my garden, whatever) sometimes they don't WANT to do that.  They have their own idea of what needs to be done (which may not be what the cancer patient really WANTS at that moment) or they may be feeling like "well, why can't their (fill in the blank with the most convenient relative..spouse, etc) do this for you?". 

So.  with my comment, I don't mind someone asking this question, but if you ask it, be prepared to do what the patient asks without question, comment or hesitation.

His second "no-no" is not to say "My thoughts and prayers are with you."  Here's what he says:  "In my experience, some people think about you, which is nice. Others pray for you, which is equally comforting. But the majority of people who say they’re sending “thoughts and prayers” are just falling back on a mindless cliché. It’s time to retire this hackneyed expression to the final resting place of platitudes, alongside “I’m stepping down to spend more time with my family,” or “It’s not you, it’s me.”'    Hmmmm....a while back...I think when I was diagnosed with stage IV cancer in 1998,. they had just done a study where some cancer patients were openly prayed for with their knowledge, and some were prayed for without their knowledge and some weren't prayed for at all....and guess what...both of the prayer groups had higher recovery rates than the non-prayed for.  I can't remember who did the study and I'm not thinking of the appropriate search terms...(but my oh my there's a lot on the web about cancer and prayer).  I know that Feiler is saying that don't say it because it is just a comment and that most people don't ever think about it again.....but I do know that some do. 

Quite frankly, I don't think I would have done as well as I did in 1998 WITHOUT the many people who really were praying for me...which included a lot of people who had read about me in newspapers, seen me on TV, heard about me through other friends....and it was sort of cool to know that there was a whole bunch of doctors on a Mercy ship praying for me along with several Catholic churches, a synagog, and a whole bunch of protestant churches of all stripes. So...I disagree with Mr. Fieler on this one.

I'm not so sure about the "you look great."  Sometimes that's nice to hear...we know how we look.  We know that the lastpart of this line is "for someone who has on chemo or whatever."  I do know that this spring when my husband's cousin said that my black and white fingernails weren't so bad...I KNEW she was lying and I knew that she would have a bird if her fingers looked like fact, her husband called her on it which make me laugh....but I also know that she's trying to stay positive because as another breast cancer survivor, it scares the dickens out of her to watch me go through this one more time (and I admit, it scares me too!).

However, every single thing that he lists for what you should say or do is absolutely spot on.  Of course, I'd also like a casserole every once in a while and if anyone would grab the vacuum cleaner, you certainly wouldn't have me fighting to take it out of your hand.

Now, here's my question for you...I was trying to keep my posts coming every week....Sometimes when I was on chemo, it was just really hard, especially as I try to keep my other blog going.  Now that I'm (knock on wood) finished with Chemo it is easier to how often do you think? I don't think I can do every day...but what's a good amount without you being bored?  What do you want to know about? What do you think?

Here's to a clean report...I'm going early to my oncologists as I have had some trouble...and yes, my fear factor is right up there....


  1. As a nurse practitioner who used to help an oncologist who specifically treated women (and some men) with breast cancer, I can say I have heard some really stupid things that people say to people undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

    When I say "my thoughts and prayers are with you" I really mean it. I don't pray constantly, but I do keep people in my daily thoughts and prayers. No one has yet proved that this does not help. Some small studies indicate it does indeed help. It surely does not hurt, unless the person specifically does not believe in prayer.

    Anyhoo, my thoughts on the matter. I also think you should suspend the "rules" about how often to post and just write something when you think of it and it seems important to share with your followers.

  2. Hi Lisa,
    I agree with Diana, write when the muse nudges you. Don't make a job out of it. Unless you want to use it as your "daily pages" as in the Artist's Way.

    And for what to say and not to say; you can tell a lot about a person's intelligence by the cliches they choose. But I always accept "thoughts and prayers" from anyone, especially if facing something rather scary.
    Vicky F

  3. Thanks guys...I meant this blog to be helpful and hopeful for others....and I was really embarrassed (seriously) when I found myself back in the trenches and fighting it again...but my markers are still falling. :) So, I'll keep on and I do have a long list of topics I want to cover...if only I can find the list under the pile on my desk and in the dust in my brain. L.