This is something that was said to me at the hospital recently. I may easily have said it myself to a person in my circumstances if I were trying to make them feel better, but being on the other end of it, I found it strangely hard to take.
Maybe it's just me. Maybe others would appreciate it. I can speak only of my reaction, and if I felt this way, maybe others would too. Let me put it out there anyway.
At the end of each three week cycle, there's a huge question hanging over whether or not I will be allowed Avastin on the day we rock up for my treatment. This is not a choice I get to make when the needle goes into the red, so to speak – when the test results come in and the amount of protein in the urine is deemed to be dangerously high.
It's not even something that's entirely in the hands of my oncologist. At a certain point, he must not authorise more, even if I wanted to have it and he thought it the best option. That is not within his control either.
So what was said that I found unhelpful?
"Look, never mind. After all, you've had at least two more years than you could have expected."
It was said in a cheery way by someone who walked out the door shortly afterwards and would trot happily over to her car to do other things we normally expect in life.
"Yes," I remember saying. "That's true."
|"Always look on the bright side of life"|
Now if someone had said to me (with certainty), "You're going to have two more years to live, with a satisfactory quality of life, and not make too much nuisance of yourself to those around you," I'd probably have been delighted. It would be something to look forward to.
But when it's said at the end of a period of grace and with a poor prognosis, it doesn't feel quite the same.
It's a bit like (not the same as, I grant you) being on a strict diet, but ignoring it and eating a meal of everything you're not supposed to have had. Instead of feeling great about it at the end, you wish very soon afterwards that you'd stuck to the diet. And the last person you would want to be reminded of it by is a fitness instructor with the body of a whippet.
Or, closer to home, being reminded by the warden as a death-row inmate (an innocent one at that) as your pals chant "Dead man walking", "Hey – what's your problem? You've had more than two years of regular appeals to keep you alive, lucky boy!"
So, I'm suggesting, don't say it. I'm not sure what you should say, but if you can't think of anything that is guaranteed to cheer up the person getting near end point, then it's my view that it's best to say nothing at all.