Lost for words

It has to be one of the hardest things.

Your life has been turned upside down and you’re worried you might die. Then you have to tell the people you love that you have cancer.

The first time I was diagnosed it was a few days before Christmas. I decided not to tell anyone straightaway apart from a handful of people. I just couldn’t cope with all those conversations. Besides I didn’t want it to be the Christmas that cancer ruined.

Second time round it’s been slightly easier. It’s taken a while for the possibility that the pea might be filled with cancer to turn into a reality. This has meant that I’ve been able to come to terms with it gradually.

Even so, I still find it difficult every time I tell someone. And I’ve been doing a lot of that lately.

I haven’t had any really bad experiences unlike my friend, the flower girl. She’s one of a group of cancer survivors that I’ve known for years. We meet up regularly and celebrate still being alive.

It was Valentine’s Day when the flower girl told her useless ex-boyfriend that she had the disease. His reply, ”thanks for ruining my day.” That has to be one of the worst reactions.

Most people though are just so stunned by the news that they’re not sure how to respond. A few friends have suggested that I write about this as they were stuck for words.

So if someone reveals to you that they have cancer, what should you say?

To be honest for me, it really doesn’t matter that much. Just say something. Anything.

All I’d really like is for you to acknowledge that it’s a terrible situation. Be positive but not too optimistic. We don’t know how this will end.

I know you might be in shock but I need you to be strong so please try not to cry. Or at least, please don’t cry too much.

After all that a hug would be lovely. I’m sure we’d probably both need one.

I’m glad to say that I’ve been getting plenty of hugs. My friends, family and work colleagues have said it will be hard but I will beat it and they have held back the tears, well mostly. For this, thank you.

Something totally unexpected and amazing has also happened.

After starting this blog, I’ve had so much love and support here, on twitter and elsewhere. I really appreciate all the messages. It’s helped me to stay positive and has been overwhelming.

Now I’m the one who’s lost for words.

15 thoughts on “Lost for words

  1. Beautifully written as always… I guess some people worry that they might not find the right words when told sad news. But as you point out, any words are better than silence. Big hugs (and no tear streaked mascara) to one inspirational lady x

  2. It’s almost a year since I had a heart renting text ( he couldn’t speak) from my macho brother telling me my sis on law had ovarian cancer. She underwent the op and chemo and is now hale and hearty. I truly wish the same for you.

  3. Hi Helen, we’ve met briefly on a few looonng night shifts at TVC, we also have a few mutual friends. I’ve been reading your blog – wanted to write and say how brave, strong and wonderfully honest it is. I’ve just returned from 5 weeks with my sister in Australia who was diagnosed with OC last summer. She’s in the midst of her second cycle of CP/Taxol after major surgery, and has now had the wonderful news that she’s in remission. It’s so important to raise awareness – and your blog is a brilliant way of doing this. I hadn’t even heard of ovarian cancer until my sister found out she had it, and I’m sure I’m not alone. You’re doing an amazing thing, I wish you all the best with the treatment, and have no doubt you’ll deal with all it throws at you with dignity and courage. x x x

  4. Tamsin is right – it’s so hard to know what to say. Too chipper and it seems to downplay the reality; too solemn and the ill person ends up doing the comforting! Helen, you are young and strong, and we’re all with you, urging you back to full health. Good luck and keep writing!

  5. Hello Helen.
    I too have cancer, Hodgkins Lymphoma, diagnosed last Tuesday, chemotherapy starts tomorrow.

    I am sending you my best wishes, let’s get rid of this once and for all!!

  6. Hi Helen,

    I’m only a viewer. I’m sure I saw you on the News chanel doing a report only about 10-14 days ago, and you looked so well, but I assume you must already have known by that stage?
    I’m only posting because by the looks of things you actually want people to contact you.
    It is difficult to know what to say- especially if it comes into the category of ‘Do I know this person well enough, which happened with a work colleague a couple of years ago, so do I say something, or nothing- as in anything feels a bit meaningless, and clumsy, unless it comes from really close friends or family. Those of us who watch the news may think we know you all, but ofcourse we don’t. All the best- You beat it once, so I’m sure you will again.

  7. Plenty more hugs for you when you’re back to work with full health.
    Keep the positive thoughts going and keep writing…… your one exceptional lady who I admire tremendously x

    Big Hug X

  8. Dear Helen
    I know you’ve said no crying but it’s hard not to be moved to tears by your blog – your bravery and positive thinking just shines through. Sending you ‘huggy vibes’ – I’ll be thinking of you – we all are.
    Alex x

  9. Hi Helen

    I met you years ago in London staying with my best friend Sinead Rocks. I read your blog via Sineads FB page & just had to get in touch. This news truly sucks balls, I hope everything goes ok and want you to know that you are in my thoughts *big hug*

  10. You are such an inspiration Helen! If only I could do something to help! All I can do is tell you that i am thinking of you and sending you the biggest hugs ever!!!! You will be fine mum went through this last year and she is all clear now!!!!! Love ya!! Xxxxxxxx

  11. Dear Helen, your words are so true and recognizable. 25 years ago, when I was young and stupid, I did not comfort a friend because I lacked the words. My friend told me later that my behavior caused her pain and that words would have been enough. She could not remember any of the comforting words people told her, only the simple fact of hearing ‘words’. Therefor I would like you to know that I still haven’t found the right words but that I am thinking of you and wish you the strength to get through this. From Kiev with love…

  12. Helen, I was feeling decidedly browned off and I have just given myself a good talking to. I hope your op goes well and that you recover quickly from it. You are right, your age and fitness give you the best possible chance; sending warm, warm wishes.

  13. Lisa Earley
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    08/03/2012 at 6:48 pm

    Helen, you are an amazing, beautiful, intelligent and incredibly strong lady. You won’t let it beat you, be as optimistic as you want, I certainly will be for you because you know what, none of us know how it ends. I hope I don’t make you cry this time, though I did cry a bit too if I am honest. That little celebration we had in November, must have been a milestone for you, as it is for us all but what an amazing time and ….well, I think we should be putting more of those in the diary, don’t you?! Love you very much Lisa xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  14. Very moving to read your story, hope things continue to get easier. Used to watch your reports in Ukraine. Best of luck Rosie

  15. i too have just been diagnosed for a second time (on my birthday!) I wrote a blog last time which really helped and am planning to start a second one today. My husband found your blog and sent me the details. I have just started reading it and just this second entry has summed up perfectly how I have felt this week. Its almost harder telling the ones you love than dealing with the diagnosis yourself. I look forward to following your progress and having a new inspiration!

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