Survivor, doctor offer advice on how to talk about cancer
Canadians talk about the disease, and what to say, in wake of Gord Downie's diagnosis
With Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie's recent announcement he's been diagnosed with a terminal form of brain cancer, fans across the county have been sending messages of love and support.
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But when cancer hits closer to home, finding the right thing to say can sometimes feel like a struggle.
Here's what two people with personal experience with cancer advise.
'I had to make them feel better'
He says you can often tell who's had a close encounter with cancer — either personally or through a loved one — just by the way they approach the subject.
"The people who didn't have an experience with cancer pitied me, they felt sorry for me," he said.
"And quite often they would say, 'Oh, I'm so sorry' and look and me, tilt their head a little bit, and it was up to me to continue that conversation. And I felt many times that I had to make them feel better."
Mallette said he found that made it hard for him to stay positive.
Conversely, he said people who had experience with cancer were often more direct with their questions, asking things like what type of cancer he had, who his doctor was, or how they could help.
He said this led to more engaged conversations that felt more productive.
'Just be yourself'
"Just be yourself," he said.
He noted people will even go as far hiding good news in their own lives because they don't want their friend with cancer to feel badly.
'Life doesn't have to revolve around cancer'
But he said carrying on as usual is often the better approach.
"It's almost as if it normalizes the experience," he said.
"Our life doesn't have to revolve all around cancer. We can actually talk about the things we used to talk about. We can tease each other and we can just be ourselves again, and that is normalizing and can be very helpful to people."
But most of all, both Rutledge and Mallette agree that if you're not sure how to act or what to say, acknowledge that — and go from there.