What to say, and what not to say...

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Veteran Member

Date Joined Sep 2009
Total Posts : 3172
   Posted 6/19/2011 6:06 PM (GMT -6)   

My wife’s in the hospital…it will be 2-weeks this Wednesday.  A friend came for a visit last weekend and brought the June 12th NY Times.  The paper had a great article on what to say, and what not to say, to someone who is seriously sick. 

My wife is in the middle of this situation (seriously sick), and I can tell you that the article is spot-on.  Almost everyone struggles with what to say in a difficult situation, and this article helps explain what's meaningful and what's not. 

The article title is:  "'You Look Great' and Other Lies."  I looked up the online version, and offer it to you all for your future reference.  Save this LINK to the article…you may not need it now, but everyone will need it sooner or later.



edit:  Added the word “Almost” in the 2nd paragraph. 

Post Edited (Casey59) : 6/19/2011 6:45:38 PM (GMT-6)

Veteran Member

Date Joined Feb 2010
Total Posts : 3984
   Posted 6/19/2011 6:29 PM (GMT -6)   
Casey -- i'm sure many of us have watched others struggle to say "the right thing" when they talked to us about our illness.
here's an article that i found interesting:
i wish the very best for you and your wife.
age: 56
PSA on 12/09: 6.8
gleason 3+4 = 7
received 3rd and last lupron shot 9/14/10
2/8/11 PSA <.1, T= 6 ng/dl
6/8/11 PSA .2, T = 540 ng/dl!

Regular Member

Date Joined May 2011
Total Posts : 79
   Posted 6/19/2011 7:37 PM (GMT -6)   
Thanks for the link. There's some sound advice in that article.
Age 50
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Forum Moderator

Date Joined Jan 2010
Total Posts : 7078
   Posted 6/19/2011 8:55 PM (GMT -6)   
Your "almost" edit first struck me as meaning "some actually know what to say", but then I thought over my experiences, and I decided it means that some don't struggle, they just launch into the abyss without thinking.
The article is very appropriate. Thank you for posting it.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Apr 2008
Total Posts : 1132
   Posted 6/19/2011 9:01 PM (GMT -6)   
Thanks for posting. A good friend's father was in the hospital very ill and I remember the advice he told his daughter after the company left. He said never visit someone longer than fifteen minutes in the hospital. He was very sick and people came to the room and hung out all day. They all meant well but....

Veteran Member

Date Joined Sep 2009
Total Posts : 3172
   Posted 6/19/2011 9:15 PM (GMT -6)   
142 said...
Your "almost" edit...
That's an insightful comment.  I actually had the first in mind (in our experience, some few people always know the right things to say), but you are also absolutely correct on the second. 
I wish you strength in your battle...

Tim G
Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2006
Total Posts : 2356
   Posted 6/20/2011 1:51 AM (GMT -6)   
I think it is best to say something--anything, even if trivial--than to say nothing at all. If someone says nothing, because they don't want to sound trivial and can't think of anything profound to say, it is indulging one's own self-centeredness at the expense of comforting the patient.

#3 'Have you tried the mango colonic I recommended' (and other alternative treatments) is one of the worst things to say to the seriously ill.
And sometimes there's nothing wrong  with a heartfelt sweet fib.

All the best to you and your wife as you cope with her illness.

Post Edited (Tim G) : 6/20/2011 12:56:48 AM (GMT-6)

English Alf
Veteran Member

Date Joined Oct 2009
Total Posts : 2217
   Posted 6/20/2011 3:08 AM (GMT -6)   
Thanks for the thread and link.

I hated people asking what they could do to help. (And still do). I also hate the fact that all through my journey I have looked really fit and well, so that most people's response at my news is simply that they think I look fine (and therefore that, by implication, I must also be completely recovered).

At the time I could probably have done with a T-Shirt that said something like: "I am being treated for cancer, so don't say the wrong thing to me. And it's up to me to decide what the wrong thing is!"

Worried Guy
Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2009
Total Posts : 3739
   Posted 6/20/2011 6:40 AM (GMT -6)   
My neighbor didn't ask. I just woke up to the sound of a snowblower in my driveway. Very nice.

I still don't know what to say. :-(

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Jan 2010
Total Posts : 7078
   Posted 6/20/2011 9:07 AM (GMT -6)   
What to say? I'd be happy if I got a "Thanks, appreciated that".
I've discovered that if you ask, and wait for an answer, you'll rarely have to do anything for anyone. Sometimes they will say yes, but generally not. I just pick something I know needs to be done that I can take care of, and do it.
I discovered a lot of small things that happened "by magic" in the couple of weeks I was more or less laid-up much later. Don't know who did them, but it was appreciated. I did have to call the neighbor a couple of times to help, and that usually involved payment in beer smilewinkgrin

Steve n Dallas
Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2008
Total Posts : 4848
   Posted 6/20/2011 9:38 AM (GMT -6)   
I like to sneek in food or have it brought in for me while in the hospital.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Sep 2009
Total Posts : 3172
   Posted 6/20/2011 7:46 PM (GMT -6)   
Steve n Dallas said...
I like to sneek in food or have it brought in for me while in the hospital.

Northwestern (University) Memorial Hospital (where she is at) is in the heart of downtown Chicago, one block from the "Magnificent Mile" section of Michigan Avenue.  There are lots of good food opportunities around here.  We had a "date" on the last two Saturday nights where I walked half a block down for Geno's East Chicago-style deep dish pizza take-out.


Veteran Member

Date Joined Sep 2010
Total Posts : 2679
   Posted 6/20/2011 8:51 PM (GMT -6)   
GOOD pizza!  I hope she has a window with a view.  When my daughter-in-law had twins in Evanston, we could see the Bahai Temple from her window.
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