Tips for Navigating Cancer Talk Around the Holidays

For many, these are such happy, carefree times; but when you’re battling cancer, these interactions can become a bit more complicated. People, with good intentions, might want to check in on your health journey… However, constantly talking about treatment and illness can be exhausting and what if you’re tired of unpacking everything?

You just never know what to expect. Some people dance around the C word like it’s hot lava, while others dive right in, asking about your health the second they see you. If they don’t acknowledge your situation, it could be misconstrued as not caring. There are also times when someone recently heard or read about a new health fad and seeing you reminds them about it, so they offer advice in order to help.

We don’t have control over how others will react, and not having control, especially in a group situation where you feel vulnerable, can cause anxiety. On the other hand, accepting that cancer might come up in conversation and preparing ahead of time can be empowering.

Here are a few different approaches to steer the conversation like a pro:

1) High Level Overview: Share the most important points, updating them on your overall status and then volley the convo back to the other person. Taking time to get your talking points beforehand can help.

2) Direct Approach: Just be a straight shooter. “Listen, I appreciate you asking but no cancer talk today please! Tell me about work or your kids instead.” You can even thank them for distracting you with other topics, which is sure to get the point across.

3) Distract with Hobbies: Remember it’s easy for people to typecast each other, especially when it comes to gifts or catching up. If you can highlight a hobby you’ve been into, there’s a good chance people will stick to that more comfortable topic and still feel like they’re connecting with you.

4) Open-ended questions: Always reliable for getting people talking about… well, anything but cancer. Remember the usual go-to topics like pets, kids, work and travel if you just need a place to start.

5) Cancer Chat Jar: Think a swear jar, only if someone brings up cancer they have to throw money into a jar to be donated to charity. (Heard this one on Twitter and liked it!)

It can help to remember that people are just doing the best they can to offer support and show their concern.

Also, I find others are mostly looking to you to set the tone; if you make it clear that you’d rather be present and enjoy the holidays, people are usually more than happy to follow your lead.

This way everyone can all get back to enjoying the good times, the laughs and also embracing the awkward moments… Because that’s life and these experiences and memories are what we fight for in the first place.

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.

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