Soul Letters for the Cancer Sojourner #24 Funny Things People Say When You Have Cancer

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Sometimes. I’ve found however what doesn’t kill you can still scare you pretty witless in the meantime. I don’t want to be stronger one day – I want to feel better, now. Don’t tell me one day – if I don’t die – I’ll be harder, meaner and braver. Just give me a hug instead.

There’s always someone worse off than you.

I have cancer. That means I’m probably worse off than you are, at the very least. So that’s actually true. I know what you mean though. However, I’m not the sort of person who becomes excited or inspired thinking about someone else who has something worse than cancer. If a person comforted by such thoughts exists, I think cancer is probably the least of their problems.

God is trying to teach you something.

You telling me this doesn’t help. Even if it’s true, which we have no way of knowing, you saying it still doesn’t help. Even if I could know for certain God or the Universe was teaching me a lesson through my having cancer, and I knew what the lesson was, and I was actively participating in the learning of it, and even if I was about to graduate it with honours and a big old handshake from God Him-or-Herself, you telling me this still doesn’t help. It really sounds like it might help, I appreciate that. It really does sound like a deep and spiritual thing to say, because we can’t really understand God or the Universe or cancer, and lumping them all together in the same sentence seems like it would probably help, but it doesn’t. Plus, if God really is trying to teach me something by giving me cancer, then God is probably a jerk, in which case I’m not going to particularly care about whatever it is He/She might be trying to teach me. So please, allow me to hold onto my childish fantasy about God being a Very Nice Deity who loves me and doesn’t want to hurt me, which allows me to keep praying to Him/Her and ask Him if He’d/She’d mind helping me with my abject fear of dying of cancer. Thanks!

Things could be worse.

No, they fucking could not. Please leave now.

You don’t look much like someone who has cancer.

You don’t look much like a tactless jerk. Just goes to show.

Which breast was it in?

You know, despite what you may have been led to believe, not all cancer is breast cancer. So now please stop staring at my boobs.

My friend/cousin/uncle/neighbour had that, and they died.

Strangely, that information also isn’t helpful.

Just pray, and God will heal you.

Tell you what – you pray, and I’ll have chemo. *Bases covered*.


In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m being facetious. Even though people have quoted these cliche’s to me, I’ve never said these things back again, unless you count in my head.

Look, the fact is, as hard as it is for us to have cancer, it’s also really, really hard for the people around us. They don’t know what to do or say, and the truth is, apart from producing copious amounts of both lasagne and cliche’s, there isn’t much they can do or say. Standing around while someone you care about suffers sucks. People always, always mean well, even if the things they say don’t make sense, aren’t very helpful or offend us outright. Don’t be angry. Just smile. Take the lasagne, and go punch a pillow. And as far as it’s possible for you to do it, keep your relationships as one of those places cancer can’t touch.


If you love someone who has cancer, I’ve written a beginners guide of things family and friends can say and do for someone who has cancer. Things Not To Say To Someone Who Has Cancer is available as an e-book and in print. Please click here for details on how to order, or visit the Store link in the top menu.

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