As I began sharing the news I had prostate cancer with friends and family, some of the responses I received were hurtful rather than helpful. I don’t think anyone purposely set out to hurt me. I think too many people said he first thing that came to mind. Here are six comments that hurt rather than help. I’ll explain why these comments are not helpful so those who are lacking in experience, sensitivity, or wisdom, can learn the reasons why these comments hurt rather than help.
1. “That’s too bad, my father, (Uncle Cousin, etc) died from prostate cancer.” This isn’t helpful because it heightens the fear and anxiety men are already coping with.
2. “At least you have a ‘good’ cancer.” When you are the one diagnosed with cancer you don’t feel good about having prostate cancer.
3. After surgery I was depressed about the quality of life changes brought about by prostate surgery. When I shared that with a friend she said “Why do you think you need emotional support? You’ve been cured of cancer and you should feel grateful.” Telling people how they should feel based on your assessment of the situation is a very bad idea. Listening without passing judgment is the way to be helpful.
4. Blame the man with cancer for his disease. “If you didn’t eat so much dairy and red meat you could have avoided prostate cancer.” Blaming someone for their disease AFTER a diagnosis is not in the least be helpful.
5. “I’ll pray for you.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with that response. As a Christian I appreciate and place a high value on people praying for me. Yet I’ve experienced this being used as a way to shut down discussion. If someone offers to pray with you without you asking for prayer, and/or without the person asking if there is something specific to pray for, odds are this offer, though genuine, might serve a dual purpose of preventing you from saying anything specific that would make the person who is volunteering to pray feel uncomfortable, fearful or anxious. So, don’t offer to pray for someone unless you know in advance those coping with prostate cancer place a value on prayer, and you ask if there is something specific you can pray for. Keep in mind it’s possible the person with cancer is angry with God or had his faith shaken in some way, Be sensitive about this possibility.
6. Comfort clichés These are brief comments such as “things will work out for the best,” or “I’m sure you’ll do fine.” Comfort clichés are not meant to provide you with comfort. They enable the person who used it to stay within their comfort zone and prevent you from sharing a real concern. When someone offers you a comfort cliché, I suggest you thank them, then quickly move on to someone else who has the willingness and ability to listen to what you think and feel.
Note: Prostate Cancer News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Prostate Cancer News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to prostate cancer.