"There's a myth that anyone who has a liver problem has brought it on themselves" This quote is from a Crohn's disease patient living with a blocked portal vein hoping for a liver transplant (Independent 31st Oct 2010)

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Sensitive to what people say

A few days ago I bumped into a work colleague at the supermarket tills. She knows why I’m off work. Visited me at home a few days after I had been discharged. She’s an ex matron, ex District Nurse, and in her 60’s is our in-house trainer as well as finding time for a few clients. We chatted for a while about my clients, returning to work etc. At one point she said ‘well, could be worse’ and I felt myself bristling with indignation. How could it be worse, what does she know. Bleakly I said “ weelll, there’s a 50% chance the cancer will be back in 3 years and I’ve got cirrhosis”. Then I thought, actually it could be worse. I could be on a palliative pathway, I could be on the transplant list, I could be coping on my own (as some bloggers are) without T and J, the friends who pop in, family and cyber bloggers.

Family know, but ‘followers’ don’t, that a few years ago I made a major job change and now work (well not NOW now as I’m off sick til the New Year) for a franchise specializing in non-medical care of older people in their own homes. I’ve re-trained; currently in my second year of college (last time at college was 1979). My clients have chronic illnesses and with chronic illness comes the shift from cure to coping. My clients have Parkinsons, Alzheimers, congestive heart failure, chronic lung disease, Atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes. No imminent cure. All require regular check-ups. Most mean a slow deterioration. Some are also ‘survivors’ of breast or prostate cancer, strokes or heart attacks.

So why should I feel I drew the short straw? Because of age? I’ve only just passed my half century whilst they are in their 70s and 80s. Because I feel I’m due more time to see J into adulthood? They have grandchildren not yet grown, who will miss them. Healthy people take for granted thinking of future career goals, dreams, holidays, grandchildren, retirement. We are as a society very future oriented; we don’t live in the moment.

When you can no longer assume a future you feel a little hard done by. And become sensitive to what people say.
My pet hates are (1) “Don’t worry” and (2) “You’ll be fine”.
Don’t worry
I know worrying gets you nowhere, just gives you something to do. So I’ll work on being Charlie Brown from the ‘Peanuts’ cartoon : “I've developed a new philosophy... I only dread one day at a time”
You’ll be fine

Particularly annoying if said just before some major procedure or test. Statistically I probably will be. But that’s not the same as you knowing in advance that I will be. If you are so sure I’ll be fine then whoop de doo I never need any more bloods drawn, any more canulas with IV, any more delicious drinks of iodine contrast, any tubes down my oesophagus.
3rd on the list is "hope you get well soon".
I didn’t have the flu or an attack of the measles. Christopher Robin had those:

"Christopher Robin
Had wheezles
And sneezles,"
…… …..
A A Milne, Now We Are Six 1927

Other bloggers pet hates:
“The one I hate is 'You're so brave...' My ass. What other choice do I have? If I could just have said, 'Yeah, no thanks, I'm not doing the whole cancer thing,' I'd have done that. I didn't have a choice. I got out of bed in the morning. That's bravery? I wasn't brave. I was sensible. Nothing more. “

Blogger /11727438178278659080
“I absolutely love all my friends and family but can’t stomach another ‘you are an inspiration”
Maybe what they
just mean is they are glad it is not them, and they don't know how they would cope but neither did we until we had to, and really coping without choice is what we do.


  1. My particular bugbear is 'Don't worry. It's probably nothing. Wait until you've got the appointment ... test ... results ... started the treatment ... see how the treatment goes ....' Please could you tell me when I am allowed to worry?

  2. I guess we've all got our own things that irritate us and it's difficult sometimes for anyone to say the 'right' thing.

    One of my current pet hates is 'Don't worry, no-one will know about the bag unless you tell them'...so annoying because I don't actually CARE how anyone ELSE feels about the bag, it's about how I feel about it all.

    Also to anonymous above...I'm guilty of trying to put people's minds at rest when they are worrying that they will potentially get the worst possible news.
    I HAVE said *try* to wait until you get the results confirmed before you think the worst..

    What else can you actually say to someone that is worrying so much over what 'could' be something completely different?

    I'll be more aware of it now but until I think of an alternative, may well slip back into my 'Try to be reassuring' words :-)