Why do they do it?

Why do they do it?

Why do they do it? I was at my son’s school Christmas concert before Christmas. It is a small school so most of the parents and teachers know each other. At the interval 3 people sought me out to tell me about people they knew (but I didn’t) who were undergoing treatment for cancer. One was dying and another was having a truly awful time on chemo.
I am sorry for them of course but why do people do this? Before my own cancer diagnosis we would have discussed tmy son’s guitar playing, their daughter’s singing or how ready we were for Christmas. All of a sudden it’s as though the only thing about me is that I have had cancer.
It’s not the first time this has happened so I wonder if anyone else has experienced it and how you deal with it.


I’m sorry that you had to listen to other people being insensitive. Why do people seem to feel compeled to tell you every horror story that they can? I have often wondered that same thing. This kind of situation sorts out who your friends are and who aren’t. I did become quite blunt bordering on being rude when I felt people had over stepped the mark. I had a massive de-junk physically and mentally at the end of my treatment and I was fortunate in that we moved last year and have only disclosed certain details to certain people when my eldest started school in September.

Becks xx

Head them off at the pass Yes I agree. When I was diagnosed I let it be known I only wanted to heat postive comments and did not want to see anyone sad or upset in front of me or my children. A couple of people did slip through the net and I was polite but avoided them aftterwards.

Some people enjoy others misery and are best avoided or cut them off before they start.

I had a great wig and so alot of people did not realise I was ill. One of two people even admired my new haircut.

I’ve found that some people seem to feel very cheated if you look well - aside of my hair loss you would think I had nothing wrong with me I’m afraid. I think some people you meet want to go off and say to their friends and work colleagues “oh, I saw so and so yesterday, what a poor looking soul with all the chemo and stuff”.

Personally, I find it makes me laugh because it’s their problem not mine. I’ve even got a cousin who is a life long hypochodriac (long story, she competes with her mother who is the same!). She is always visiting “alternative therapists” who really just see her coming and rip her off. I nearly had a massive row with her over the phone a couple of months back because she had discussed me with a guy who was treating her and he said my breasts must be full of aluminium. She also gave me a book about coming off chemo completely and using natural remedies. Next she will be telling me it’s all down to bad fung shui in my house. If she comes to see me I am sure I may lamp her one…

I have experienced the exact same thing three different times over the past 18 months. The most recent was at a party over the summer when one stupid cow (sorry, but that’s what she was) saw fit to sit and tell me how her best friend had died of breast cancer, how awful it was for the children, how sad it was to see her die so young and in so much pain, blah blah blah. I just sat and nodded mutely throughout and was absolutely fuming for the rest of the evening.

It enraged me so much that it took two sessions with my cancer counsellor to work out what I should have done. I think my problem was that I didn’t want to upset or offend her by telling her that she was both upsetting and offending me! In actual fact what i should have done is politely but firmly told her that although I was sorry to hear about her friend, it upset me a great deal to hear about it and I would rather change the subject. My counsellor’s opinion was that there would have been absolutely nothing wrong with telling her that, walking out of the room or simply leaving the party altogether.

I now take the view that i have a responsibility to say something to those kind of people because otherwise they’ll just carry on doing it to everyone they ever meet who has / had cancer. I actually think that those people are incredibly rude and there is no reason why we should tolerate them. I tried out my new theory on a (now ex) friend a couple of months later and felt incredibly liberated by telling her that she had upset me. The consequence of that is that she now hasn’t spoken to me for three months but that’s another story…!

Hi Yes, it happens and makes me want to scream! When I’m feeling ok I can be assertive and say that I’m really sorry to hear about their friend but that I’d rather talk about something else. However, when I’m feeling fragile, the time when I really need to shut them up, I’m incapable to saying anything …escape to the bathroom is often the only answer.

Then there are the people who, no matter that you are out to enjoy yourself come over and start by asking how you are, which is fine, but then they proceed to pump for more and more details … I now say, ‘if you don’t mind, I don’t want to talk about it when I’m out socially’.



Another perspective When I was going through tretament I got far more annoyed wih people who simply ignored the topic of cancer, or worse told me about their auntie or grannie who had survived for years. I’d have been much happier talking about other people’s experiences of cancer than being ignored.

Guess we’re all different and it goes to show why it is so hard for people to know ‘what to say’ to people with cancer. Probably the best thing is that people without cancer take the lead from those of us with cancer person by person…that they listen rather than preach.

I wish we could all talk about cancer in an ordinary way. That means I think acknowledging the horror stories and the really good news stories alongside each other.


I suppose that after ranting I should have added that actually I get annoyed by a lot of people who have not had cancer themselves but sit and tell me about their friend / relative / woman next door who had it and lived to 150 / died in misery / left a weeping widow and 200 grieving children.

I understand completely that people don’t know what to say or do when they meet someone with cancer and the experiences I’ve had in the past couple of years have taught me that ther best approach is to ask the person sitting infront of you how they feel rather than assuming they are going to be reassured by other peoples’ experiences.

Of course I know that tens of thousands of women die of breast cancer every year and what probably upset me most with that woman last summer was not that she told me about her friend, but that she didn’t ask me once about how I was getting on.

My partner’s mother loves to talk about her (mostly imagined)and other people’s ailments. She makes a point of telling me who she has met and told about my cancer. She also tells me about other women she knows who have “had a breast off”. I now find that I can’t stand this kind of depressing thoughtless chatter and I cut her short and don’t have the conversation. I’m pretty hard with my own mother who seems to be trying to find any excuse at the moment to weep and wail about me. I’m looking after myself. I don’t need this kind of misery and I’m not responsible for their feelings so offend or please, I shut them up.