Open letter: Things I wish you wouldn’t say to me and about my son’s cancer

I warn you, this post is a rant. Straight up rant. Proceed with caution.


Dear friends, family, acquaintances, strangers, and the check out lady at Safeway,

There are some things you have said lately that have hurt. They have made me angry or feel isolated. I know you don’t mean it. I know you usually mean to do the opposite, but it is what it is. I am writing to you to so you can know how to better support me, or at the very least not make me crazy.

Don’t tell me you couldn’t go through what I am. You could if you had too. I’m not super human. I am not special. I am just doing what I need to for my kids. You would too. Instead tell me that you think I am handling it great, how you respect my strength or that you think I doing everything I should be. Your appreciation is worth more than your fear.

Don’t tell me you miss our church family, can’t connect with God, or are in emotional turmoil because you just “can’t” make it it to church. You know why you “can’t” make it? Because it’s summer and you have to go camping an extra morning. The groceries need to be bought…apparently right at 10:30am on a Sunday. You are too tired from staying out the night before. Or *gasp* a sports game is on TV. I have a friend, who physically cannot leave the room her daughter is in because of the intense medical care she has to give. She hasn’t been able to go to church in over 9-months. I have been physically unable to leave my child to go to church on the weeks I need it most.  So don’t complain about missing out on the latest announcements or today’s sermon because you are making something frivolous a priority over church. Let’s be real here. What’s more important? Redefine your use of “can’t”.

Don’t complain to me that you have to give your child Tylenol or some minor medication to make them feel better. I’m giving my son toxic drugs that make him sick, to save his life. Get over your “all natural” high horse and just do what your child needs. Yes, many times that can be fixed with natural solutions but when it doesn’t, just get over it and do what you need to do.

Don’t just blow me off by saying “I’m praying for you.” I appreciate the prayers, I really appreciate hearing about them, but sometimes I just want to talk. Don’t disrespect the act of prayer by using it as a way to end the conversation you are too uncomfortable to have with me.

Don’t tell me we are lucky that he won’t remember this or the rest is just simple and easy. It’s not. It won’t be for a long time. Statistically it’s almost guaranteed that he will get more tumors. So while this one is shrinking, there is always a chance of more. This fight isn’t over yet. He could end up being a six year old going through chemo because another tumor grew. He would remember that.

Don’t tell me my situation is your worst fear, when you are trying to help me. I’m not here to comfort you. Oh and by the way, it’s mine too. I cannot say this enough, your appreciation is worth more than your fear.

Don’t assume that because I don’t have a quick answer to “what can I do for you?” means I don’t have needs. Sometimes I don’t know what I need, or don’t know what you can give. Offer hard solutions “can I bring you dinner this week?” or “I’m going to the water park, can I bring your daughter with us so you can take a nap?” It helps.

Don’t tell me tragic cancer stories. These days I only need hope. Not to know how everyone you know has died from cancer. I get that you need to share, but as of right now, I can’t listen.

Don’t tell me how you are crying every day over my son’s diagnosis. I am sorry but I can’t be there for you, and your guilt is unappreciated. You barely know my son and loosely know me. I am sorry it makes you scared and sad for my family, but I don’t have the strength to hold you up. I barely can hold my own family up, and occasionally I want to be there for a super close friend. Other than that, I am out. Sorry.

Don’t act like it’s my job to keep you updated daily about my son’s progress. I do what I can but my husband and children are my focus now. If you want to know, ask. I love when people ask. Please don’t make this about you and get all offended when you are not my priority.

Don’t take this that I don’t appreciate everyone’s support, prayers, the lovely notes of encouragement people have been sending me, the hugs, meals, gas cards, and financial help. I sometimes just need to vent. I sometimes don’t like everything that people say. But it doesn’t mean I don’t like you. It doesn’t mean I don’t need your support or appreciate you trying. It just means please think a little more critically about what you say, and maybe forgive me for when I am having a bad day.

Lots of love,



3 thoughts on “Open letter: Things I wish you wouldn’t say to me and about my son’s cancer

  1. Jen, I hope this doesn’t come off as odd, but thank you for your rant. I’ve been catching up on your blog before church and wondered how YOU were. This answers something’s. I praise you for putting things into words. I watch people all day who just fail to communicate and it drives me a little bit more crazy. I love you and pray for you and your family daily (specific place remind me to pray for each of you separately). Most days I feel stupidly useless because I don’t have a working car and just can’t offer anything tangible like taking Addie to the park, or bring Starbucks/lunch/dinner, however much I’d love to help. Your doing great lady, your family is first after God. I praise you for blogging Miss your beautiful face!!

  2. Hi Jen, Your “rant” brought a smile to my face. Weird as that sounds, I just gave a speech in class on Monday that was a similar “rant” about what to say to grieving parents. I think that most people just are unaware of how hurtful the things that they say can sometimes be. Mostly they mean well, but kudos to you for being able to put it into words for those who don’t understand. We love you! We pray for you and Brian and Addie and Asher! Can’t wait until Asher is healthy enough so that you can join us again. You are handling all of this incredibly well. You are a huge blessing to not only your family, but to all of us. Like Anna, I praise you for blogging.

  3. Jen I loved your rant. Often people say or do things meaning well, that are less then helpful. I understand how cancer seeps into every aspect of your life. My child with cancer is an adult with children of her own. We experienced both chemo and radiation. And my daughter did it while expecting (chemo only , had to have David prematurely to go on with her treatments). Your an awesome awesome women. Your strength is motivational. Thank you f or sharing your life with us. Particularly your rant. Keep doing what your doing.
    God bless you and yours

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