[cancer|personal] The things people say to me

Loose paraphrases of some things people have said to me recently, but not that loose.

“Hey, Jake…” If you want me well-disposed to do anything for you, including simply answering your email, use my actual name. I am not now and have never been “Jake”. It’s the only misuse of my name that actively bothers me, but it does bother me. I think that this version means the writer simply isn’t paying attention, eliding “Jay Lake” into “Jake”. Nothing wrong with Jake as a name, but it’s not my name.

“You’ve done more in your life than most people ever will.” This is apparently supposed to make me feel better about dying decades too soon. Exactly how is this a comfort to me?

“At the end, it will be a relief to let go.” That’s even worse than the one before. Again, why would I want to look forward to that?

“Your Hugo-nominated novella isn’t your best work. You got the nomination out of sympathy.” While that might even be true — How would I know? — and it’s certainly an opinion that some people may hold, what is the point of writing me an earnest letter saying such a thing? How does this improve my life?

There’s more, but you get the idea.

So, yeah. Just saying’.

48 thoughts on “[cancer|personal] The things people say to me

  1. vixy says:

    That last one… oh my god people are horrible WHY WOULD YOU EVEN SAY THAT TO ANOTHER HUMAN BEING.

    I just.

  2. People can be such asshats.

  3. You’re in the unenviable position of being able to observe the convergence of cluelessness with assholeness. Try to remember that most people, me included, just don’t know what to say to a dying person, and many of them wish afterwards they had come up with something better.

    Good luck.

  4. How about that guy from Boston last night?

  5. Sometimes people suck and I’m sorry that you seem to be dealing with a disproportionately high number of those people. But I believe most of us are pretty awesome, hopefully we can dilute the dumb a little bit. Maybe.

  6. Ilsa says:

    As a shrink, I look at this as, you know, people feeling anxious and awkward.
    The thing is . . . my humanity gets in the way. Like, for crissake, catch a clue, people.

  7. Sandi says:

    Saying or writing someone’s name incorrectly is insulting – it means they aren’t paying attention. And the truth of the matter is that they are more focused on what they have to say than to whom they are saying it. I grew up with the last name Sauer (pronounced “sour”) – and it was misspelled and mis-pronounced most of the time, simply because people didn’t want to insult. As for the other things (aside from the nomination thing which was stupid), like others have said, I think people are trying to be kind. We are not taught how to deal with death – from the point of view of the terminal or of the observer. What do we say? We don’t know. No one ever told us. We’re not supposed to talk about dying. We’re supposed to focus on the positive. Death is not positive. So we try to make it so. But we can’t. I have never had a terminal disease – but someday I will. I hope it’s when I’m in my 90s. But I’ve watched people, from a distance, do it. And I’ve tried to be supportive. I don’t know how well I’ve done. No one ever told me. As for you, I hope you can have as good a quality of life as possible in the time you have left. I hope you having loving family around you (this is the first post of yours I’ve read), and I hope you have an understanding of death that makes this transition as easy as it can possibly be. And I hope I haven’t said anything thoughtless. Because, frankly, I honestly don’t know what is acceptable to say. No one ever taught me that.

  8. Alexis says:

    ‘What Not To Say To A Cancer Patient’ would sell a lot of copies,
    and generate many knowing nods. I hate people.

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