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How people may react
You will probably find that the people react to your cancer diagnosis in different ways.
- Some people will know exactly what to say and do. They will know how to support you during your cancer journey.
- Some people might withdraw or avoid you. They may not feel that they can deal with the situation.
- They may be scared to see you sick or in pain.
- They may fear that seeing you will be upsetting or force them to think about the possibility of getting cancer themselves.
- They may be threatened by illness.
- They may worry that they don’t know what to say or that they will say the wrong thing.
- They may feel like they don’t know what to do to help.
- People close to you may think they are protecting you by not talking openly or honestly about cancer, even when you need or want to talk about it. They may try to act positive and happy. They might change the subject any time you mention the diagnosis.
- Based on their understanding of the disease or previous experience with it, some people may think of cancer as a death sentence.
- Some people may cope by going into denial and act like nothing is happening.
Dealing with people’s responses
It can be very difficult to talk with people when they react in ways that you don’t understand. You may feel hurt and confused by their reactions.
The following suggestions might help you deal with different reactions.
- Try phoning or writing an email or letter to a relative or friend that has been absent. Let them know you would like to see them.
- Give people some practical suggestions on how they can help, like returning library books or cooking a meal for you or your family. This can help people feel involved.
- Try sharing information about current treatments and approaches for your type of cancer. This may lessen people’s fears and give them more hope.
In some cases, you may have to accept that someone cannot deal with cancer. While this can be upsetting, it’s important to know that you haven’t done anything wrong. They are staying away because they can’t accept or deal with your cancer diagnosis.
Support from someone who has ‘been there’
The Canadian Cancer Society’s peer support program is a telephone support service that matches cancer patients and their caregivers with specially trained volunteers.