Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Cancer Diagnosis is More Important

Today's Ask Amy column upset me and made me think. You can read it below or here as published in the Boston Globe.
Q. My sister (in her early 40s) was diagnosed with cancer. They caught it early, so it’s still at an early stage. We in the family all found out about this a few weeks ago.
I have messaged her and her husband a few times since then to chitchat, but never asked them about the cancer.
I feel like if they want to talk about it or need my help, I will be there. It is understood by everyone in my family that we will help each other if asked.
My sister and I haven’t spoken for a week, and I found out from my other sister that my brother-in-law called me rude and not supportive because I didn’t offer to help.
I have two young children, and the younger one was constantly sick. I also work full time and am dealing with a dying father-in-law.
I don’t have the memory capacity or time to follow up on them all the time. Was I being rude? Hurt
A. You were being rude, and you ARE being rude.
Even if yours is a family that considers illness to be a private matter — your sister has cancer. It is incomprehensible that you would learn of this, initiate contact with your sister to “chitchat,” and then never mention it.
Your sister and her husband also did not bring it up, but they knew you had an awareness of their situation and were no doubt expecting you to at least inquire.
You say you can’t be supportive because your sister’s cancer is trumped by other family issues. This is even more baffling, because if you have experience dealing with illness, surely you realize that the comfort doesn’t come from offers of “help,” but from having people at least acknowledge the challenging situation illness presents.
In the course of your messaging, what does it cost you to type: “Oh, Sis, I heard about your cancer. Thank goodness it was caught early. I’m thinking of you. . .”?
All of your reasons for not doing this come off as justifications after the fact. You should apologize and offer some sisterly support.
I agree with Amy here. If someone is diagnosed with cancer, it should be recognized by family members. I have had too many people run for the hills at the word cancer. I never wanted to be buried in phone calls about my medical issues but it is nice if family members recognize it.

Obviously the letter writer is a bit self centered and she has a bit too much going on in her life to think of anyone else. But seriously? Your sister had cancer and you blew it off.

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