Ignorance isn't always bliss. Sometimes people who don't understand what it is like to live with lung cancer can make insensitive remarks. Like a non-smoking woman I met who was accused - more than once - of being a closet smoker. Or a dear man I know, who heard people whispering that his smoking had finally gotten the best of him.
What is the most insensitive comment someone has made to you or a loved one with lung cancer? What tips can you share on how to cope with those remarks? Share your story, and read what others have to say.
Share Your Story
Even the Pharmacy Tech!
- My husband is Stage IV NSCLC, and I stopped in our pharmacy one day to pick up his meds.
The pharmacist asked me how he was doing, and as I started to answer, the new pharmacy tech piped in with, "My uncle had that same kind of cancer, and he did OK with chemo - of course, he's dead now." I just looked at the pharmacist, shook my head, and walked away for awhile to cool off. She was young, and I know she didn't mean anything by it, but geez!
- —Guest Laura
what not to say
- Ii have had breast cancer...and the best thing my friends did was nothing. They left me alone. Suited me fine. I did not, and do not, want pink ribbons, hats, earrings, etc., and will never join a support group. My 'style' is to have it ignored. Got treatment and went on. And will continue to do so. When it comes back (again), will have the same response. I'm still me and don't want help, pity, nor smiles and cute 'things'. Never have.
- —Guest molly
can you believe
- can you believe that people would say such insensitive things? its like they want to really say "its your fault so die already"... makes me ANGRY a good reply would be "Yes, many people with lung cancer had never smoked in their lives. Many people eat healthy and exercise and still have a heart attack. Let's hope that you never get cancer yourself or die from a heart attack. And if you do get a life threatening disease, let's hope that people don't say insensitive things to you when you are down on your luck and at your worst. "
- —Guest cantbelieve
Well would you believe it!
- Waiting to go down for surgery for a lobectomy, another patient struggling with an electric cig hie said don't you feel angry that you quit smoking 5 yrs ago and STILL got this. The thought had never occurred to me . I feel thankful I stopped when I did or I could of been in this situation sooner.
Oh and an emergency doctor I saw during my chemo asked me why I thought I had lung cancer. He said even though I am an ex smoker I hadn't been smoking long enough to develop cancer. I'm 44. Mmmmm
- —Guest Alex B
It's your own fault!
- Isn't it great that we have so much more information regarding our health & smoking, I wish my mother had known.
- —Guest Karen
How can you have been so dumb?
- Easy...you watch your parents & grow up not thinking that they are certainly doing something "bad". My parents protects me.
- —Guest Karen
- Both my husband and i are ex smokers before he was diagnosed. A co worker said: well that he has lung cancer shouldn't surprise you, he did smoke for a long time. I wanted to say: well i guess if you get diabetes it wont surprise me because you were obese for a long time. Of course i wouldn't as I think overeating is an addiction with ill effects just as hard to control as addiction to smoking. They are addictions and are very hard to overcome. My husband deserves to live and he willl - God willing.
- —Guest debbie
should not have smoked
- when my brother was diagnosed by his dr. he was 1st told he had copd. when he did not respond to those treatments the dr. did an xray and then he saw a huge tumor. the dr. told my brother, I dont know how i could have missed that big tumor but i cant do anything for u now. you got about 4 months at best to live.
- —Guest rosa
Insensitive lung cancer comments
- A coworker said to me just days after my 39 year old husband was diagnosed with NSCLC "oh my brother in law has lung cancer, they gave him 5 years. Oh and what about that Dana Reeves? She didn't even smoke and she was dead in months". And my boss, when I told him how anxious my husband was about his upcoming surgery to remove his right lung - "you should have him go online and look at all those pictures of kids with cleft palates". Really? You're comparing LUNG CANCER and Losing a lung to a CLEFT PALATE? I'm still stunned and in disbelief when I think of that...
- —Guest Kerri
How to Respond
- You absolutely should NEVER be snarky when answering people's insensitive remarks. All it will do is justify in the person's mind what they said. Instead, use the opportunity to kindly educate. Point out how many people get lung cancer without smoking, and how nobody deserves to die regardless of whether they smoked or not. Tell them how little money goes into cancer research and how little medical science has advanced in the treatment of lung cancer compared to breast cancer. You can't win people over to your side by being nasty when an insensitive comment was made.
- —Guest Laurie Williams
Stigma of Lung Cancer
- Unfortunately Lung Cancer is a stigmatized disease and is seen by many as self inflicted. For me, a constant reminder of this is the almost inevitable first question I’m asked when people hear I’m a Lung cancer patient, “Did you smoke?” My answer to them is, “Does it matter.”
I doubt those people would ask someone with Bowel cancer “Didn’t you have your five a day?” It still annoys me now, but I’ve learned to use it as an opportunity to combat the perception that people with Lung Cancer are smokers who deserve what they get.
The ramifications of the smoking stigma are profound. Lung Cancer is vastly underfunded compared with other common Cancers. The huge disparity in funding levels, has translated into less effective treatments, unacceptably high mortality rates, plus a scarcity of support services for people with Lung Cancer. This lack of public support can be demoralising for Patients fighting this disease.
Sadly a blame the victim mentality has evolved.
- —Guest Terry Kavanagh
- When people say....we are all going to die someday. I could get hit by a truck tomorrow. To me it makes light of the illness I have, and how much I and all the others with this disease have suffered.
- —Guest Leslie Lehrman
Insensitve Lung Cancer Remarks
- Sister of my roommate said to my Stage IV lung cancer roommate, "Are you sure that getting treatments is worth all the trouble?"
- —Guest Karen M Sutton