What Do I Say?
After my husband’s terminal diagnosis with a rare cancer, Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP), it seemed like some of our friends lost all common sense. They said really “stupid” things. Mom said that was the least of my worries and in a few years it wouldn’t matter. I stewed anyway. Then we attended church.
“Well, Gar, you sure look good. Probably the hospital wasn’t that big a deal anyway.” My white-faced husband stood holding onto the back of the pew while a fellow parishioner made light of his situation. “Looks like you just needed a change of desire, you suppose?”
Change of desire? What kind of statement was that?
My eyes pooled with tears. I felt an urge to deck the woman. I wanted to scream at her, “Two oncologists said there is no treatment for his cancer,” but I didn’t. I tempered my response and when Gary visited with a man nearby, I whispered to the woman, “Last week an oncologist suggested I take family medical leave, I won’t have my husband long.”
The woman looked beyond me, tapped Gary on the shoulder and said, “Good to see you, Gar. Isn’t great to know Doc’s aren’t always right?” She patted my husband’s shoulder and strode down the aisle before either of us could respond.
Later, I thought to myself, that woman isn’t sarcastic or mean tempered. I also thought about my lack of “right words” in similar situations. Then I remembered my mother’s sage advice, “In five years it won’t matter—even if you do remember the situation.”
Mom’s always right, rather than focus on that woman’s blunder I decided to write the comment in a journal to use later. Today it doesn’t really matter what the woman said, I learned a lot then and later. Today her comments are turned into, “hope in a bite sized” capsule.
What to say when life looks hopeless for your friend:
♥ In the hospital: “Hey, you’ve probably seen every kind of needle and pill pusher today. Let’s change the scene. Reflect to a happy time and place. Can you tell me five fun memories? I’m a good listener.”
♥ At the grocery store or church: Look into your friends eyes. Be real, honest. See them as more than the illness. “I heard your doctor didn’t give you the best prognosis, I’m sorry to hear that. Honestly, I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know I’m thinking about you and your family.”
♥ At the home: Comfort comes from our attitude. Don’t be afraid to get involved. Pull up a chair, touch your friend or loved one. Words aren’t always necessary.