Amazingly, our 15-year-old daughter took her diagnosis with a brave, calm, and graceful acceptance. It was quite remarkable for someone so young.
Unfortunately, although people have good intentions, some things are just better left unsaid to a girl with cancer (and her family). Here is a list of things people have actually said to us (followed by our honest reaction to it).
1. I know exactly how you feel.
We appreciate your empathy…really! However, unless you’ve had Hodgkin before (and even then, the experience could be quite different), no one could really claim to know EXACTLY how we feel. Alternatively, “I’m sorry you’re going through this.” is more than good enough.
2. Why and how did you get Hodgkin?
Trust me, if we knew why and how one gets Hodgkin, then we would’ve done everything we could for our daughter to avoid it.
3. Why don’t you change your diet and lifestyle?
This is sort of related to #2. If we knew what kind of diet and lifestyle brings this about, we would’ve changed it. Our daughter is a 15-year-old who, until recently, lives a happy, active, healthy, athletic lifestyle. If that’s what caused her cancer, then a lot of people in the world would be battling Hodgkin right now.
4. Are you sure the diagnosis is correct?
We know this is really hard for you to believe. As her family, we are probably more shocked about this diagnosis than anyone. However, after getting diagnoses from three different places with consistent findings, I think it is pretty much what it is. Live with it (at least that’s what we’re trying to do)!
5. Are you sure about chemotherapy?
After discussing with a great bunch of doctors and doing our own research, we are bound to go with the option of greater probability. She has a huge 13.8 cm mass in her chest…we have no ambitions of experimenting and reinventing the wheel to see what could work.
6. Don’t worry, everything will be fine, you’ll see.
We know this is meant to be reassuring and if we heard this before the start of chemotherapy, it would’ve given us hope. However, when your daughter just had her chemo and she’s vomiting, fainting, having dizzy spells and shortness of breath, not to mention, being pricked numerous times, and (as her mom) you’ve never been as frazzled your whole life, it’s hard to believe “everything will be fine.” Sorry but that’s the truth.
As we live by the day, saying something like “I hope tomorrow will be better” is more realistic and, therefore, truly reassuring.
7. Do you know how long you have to live?
This is, by far, the best one hands down! I can just see it going down as a funny coffee table anecdote years from now. For now, though, REALLY? Some friend you are! Anyway, if it’s ignorance and honest curiosity that drove you to ask this, a simple “What’s the prognosis?” would probably suffice.
Ok, next question, please…