Yesterday I went for my quarterly check up and I had a conversation with the phlebotomist at the hospital while she was drawing my blood. I've come to know her a bit since she usually draws my blood. She's a bit tough, has that "suck it up" attitude. She's always been nice but I get how it is in a major cancer center where they see so many sick people and many of them don't come back for long and here I am almost two years out walking in without a mask or anything like that, so I get it. Anyway she's a bit callous and my wife always says I should bring her a job application from the DMV and tell her "in case things don't work out for you here". lol
So anyway we're talking for a few minutes and she starts telling me about this movie she saw over the weekend with her husband about a young football player who was this great athlete in college and was on his way to the NFL or something and in the movie he started having nose bleeds and she said she told her husband "i bet you he has leukemia" she said her husband told her she was crazy and thinks everyone has leukemia because of where she works. She then told me in the movie the guy goes for a physical and is diagnosed with leukemia. Then she says "I told him, I knew he had leukemia and I was right - he was 23 years old and then he died"!
I was like WTF? Are you serious? Are you really telling a leukemia patient that you saw a movie about someone with leukemia who died? I mean I live in reality, I know how serious this is, but really? While I'm getting my blood drawn on my way to see the oncologist you tell me this uplifting story about a young man with leukemia who dies! Fortunately I have a pretty good sense of humor about things and I actually found the situation more humorous than offensive. Of course I have the luxury of doing pretty well so far and it doesn't appear I'm looking at dying anytime in the near future, so I guess it is easier for me to take it in and perhaps in a way she knows this and that is why she felt it was ok to say it to me. I shutter to think if the woman with AML who was sitting down after me had to hear the same story.
So it got me thinking of all the things people say that they shouldn't. I thought I would start putting together some guidelines - hopefully some of you will chime in and add to my list.
1) Do not tell people with leukemia about someone you know of who had leukemia and died. This goes for first hand knowledge, something from a movie or the paper and especially not a cousin of a friend who knew a guy....
2) Do not tell people with leukemia "they can cure that now". Again a sister-in-law's second cousin's co-worker is not a good reference.
3) Don't tell people with leukemia "but you don't look sick". As much as it's nice to know that we don't look as bad on the outside as we may feel on the inside, it kind of minimizes what we are going through.
3a) If the person with leukemia does look sick, you probably shouldn't tell them that either.
4) Don't tell people with leukemia (this one goes for CML) "you're lucky, there's a pill for that". Unless you are taking the pill, shush...
5) Don't tell people with leukemia "you just need to stay positive". The only response to this statement should be "I am positive I have leukemia".
6) Don't tell people with leukemia they should start taking vitamins, herbs, coffee enemas, eating organic foods etc. We know eating healthy is important but we also know there are a lot of things we can't take. No vitamin is going to cure leukemia and the implication, whether you meant it or not, is that if we had done these things to begin with, we wouldn't have gotten leukemia in the first place.
7) Don't tell people with leukemia to "suck it up". If you do, expect to get a modified response of "you suck it".
8) Don't tell people with leukemia "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger". I should be able to lift a car over my head at this point, the fact is I am getting weaker, so please spare me the cliche'.
9) Don't tell people with leukemia "it is what it is". Thanks for the deep philosophical thoughts, I know you think you're being deep, but you're just being dismissive.
10) Don't tell people with leukemia (this one is for CML) "so it's pretty much like diabetes, you just take your medicine and you're fine". Wow, you managed to marginalize not just one but two very serious diseases.
11) Don't tell people with leukemia "it could be worse". Once again aside from being incredibly dismissive, it makes us think about what could be coming around the corner.
12) Don't tell people with leukemia "we all have to die sometime". Really? Tell you what, you go first and let me know how it goes.
I know there are many more out there, but I'm done for now, please feel free to add on your favorites.