What to Say to Me When You Discover I am a Skin Cancer Patient

I don’t like skin cancer.

I don’t like having it. I don’t like worrying about it. I don’t like trying to prevent it. I don’t like going to the dermatologist. I don’t like anything about the process of diagnosis and treatment. I really don’t even like discussing it unless it’s helping someone or making others aware

I would rather talk about almost anything else than my skin cancer stuff. That being said when others find out that it is part of my health journey I do hear a lot of talk. People respond in different ways.  Most are well-intentioned and trying to be helpful and I appreciate that.

The best thing to say

The best thing someone can say to me when they find out that I have or have had skin cancer goes something like this,

“Oh I am sorry.  I know that can be very difficult.  I am here for you if you need to talk or need help in anyway.  I will pray for you.”

Don't need to keep chatting about it

And, that’s about it. I am not that interested in lectures, statistics, anecdotes, and stories. I might like being directed to reading material or website links, but probably not in that moment.

I have to be in the mood, the “skin cancer chat” kind of mood. I really just want you to come along side and stand WITH me. I want you to know me well enough to understand when I can talk about it and when I cannot.

And to this point.  When you know me you will know that I am an internal processor. I need time alone to think about things. I need time and space to process feelings and then, when I am ready, I can go outside of myself and allow you into the conversation.

Talking about feelings, not blame, with me

Most of the time when I am willing to talk about it, we are going to talk about feelings.  I just need you to listen, ask thoughtful questions and understand.  No agenda. 

Assigning past blame and wouldas, shouldas, and couldas won’t help.  Also, my feelings are legitimate.  Skin cancer is really cancer and people do die from it.  It’s a traumatic lifestyle for many.

The skin cancer lifestyle can be very traumatic. Every day I look in the mirror and wonder what that little thing is and will it be my ultimate doom.  Just the other day I came in from outside with a red face.  I had put on a lot of sunscreen.  Was it sunburn or windburn?  Why was my face so flushed?  The best way you can talk to me about it is to understand that it can be very bothersome daily.

Others Will Be Different

When you talk to others, it’s best understand things about them as well.  Are they external processors?  Does conversation help them flesh out feelings? Is it therapeutic to go back in time and talk about how things could have been different? Do statistics, charts, graphs, and stories energize them? Maybe they do. 

And this is my point?  When you talk about skin cancer with patient-friends, please be gentle and join in the conversation that centers around their needs and sensitivities.

Thank you to those who care enough to listen well. I need you.

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