I don’t know what to say

A couple of colleagues pulled me aside at different times over the last few weeks and said something similar to “I really feel for you, I’m sorry I haven’t said anything until now, but I didn’t know what to say”.

To tell you the truth, it wasn’t until recently that I thought about the way I would have reacted if the roles were reversed before Violet got cancer, and it would have been very similar.

I know I wouldn’t have known what to say.
I know I would have stared at a child with a bald head or tubes out their nose.
I guess I would have been in shock. Emotional overload, brain short circuit.

I’m sorry to those that I may have done this to in the past. Some things have no rule books and are just plain difficult to deal with.

So, if you feel you don’t know what to say.. here’s some things I think I’d now say:

  • I don’t know what to say, but I really feel for you.
  • I’m here for you if you need me
  • I’d like to do something for you, what would help (side note: different people have different needs)
  • Smile and wave to a kid with a bald head, they’re pretty much a normal, just look a bit different

Depending on what people are going through, there might not be the right thing to say… the things above might even offend… it’s tough!

In the early days there were things that people said that did rub me the wrong way, below I’ve got went through my head at the time:

  • What are her chances?
    • Really? I’m just coming to terms that my daughter has cancer, no I don’t want to be reminded all the time of her survival rate, I’d like to enjoy her for now.
  • My [insert relative/friend] has cancer, it’s been a really tough few years.
    • What? this will take years.
    • Really? can we just focus on my daughter for a moment before I hear your story.
    • Do you realise that every cancer is different and for a kid to get cancer is much rarer than your 80 year old aunt?
  • How are you really doing?
    • Ummm.. I don’t really know you .. “I’m ok/good” .. but to tell you you the truth I’m so emotionally tired that I don’t really know how I’m doing, and quite frankly aren’t ready to find out.
  • I know someone who’s child died of cancer, would you like me to introduce you?
    • Sorry for being selfish, but right now I don’t care. My daughter is still alive, can I just celebrate that fact and enjoy her before being faced with the reality of what others have faced.
    • Wow, this is real. My daughter could die…. Thanks for throwing that in my face – NOT!
    • It’s only been in recent months I’ve thought of all the kids who’ve come before Violet, who have trialed drugs and passed. I really feel for those parents, but in the early days, it was all about survival.

I forgive all of you for what you say, how were you to know what you said offended. Hopefully I was polite in my response.


Now people could say anything to me and I’m ok with it. I’m happy to talk in depth on pretty much any of Violets treatment (or future plans), that’s if I’ve got the time.

A couple of articles that friends have shared in recent months that I felt are too good not to share on this topic are:
Stop Saying “Everything Happens for a Reason”
And, a three part series on Stupid Phrases For People In Crisis. Part 1Part 2: Giving Grace To People In CrisisPart 3: A Final Note For Those In Crisis
I don’t necessarily agree with all, but they’re a pretty good read.

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