to think saying 'Cancer's like flu these days' is offensive.

(58 Posts)
Beeyump Mon 02-Sep-13 22:47:51

This, breezily, from a woman at work who has had breast cancer herself, and has now had the all clear. I think she meant that cancer can be successfully treated more often now? While my mum is in that group, my maternal grandparents weren't so fortunate, and I just found the remark really off. But aibu to think that without having been through it myself?

Beeyump Tue 03-Sep-13 22:10:06

Elkiedee,I think it would be a good idea to engage with her and find out more about what she meant/how she is, as you suggested. Don't think I'll ever be great friends with her,but...that's fine! She does know about my mum.

SirChenjin Tue 03-Sep-13 21:15:38

I can understand why she might want to downplay it or make light of it, and I would imagine that she wants to maintain a positive outlook.

That being said, I think it was quite an insensitive comment, and having lost my DM to cancer I would have probably been quite angry and upset if one of my colleagues had said the same.

elkiedee Tue 03-Sep-13 21:09:48

More thinking and reading. I would have found that a bit offensive, so I sort of agree with you, but....

I'm just imagining that I would have been very offended by that remark, but I can also see what others have said, that she might want to talk about her experience.

If you have an opportunity to talk to her more, I wonder if you could ask her to talk about what she meant, or listen if she wants to talk about her experience of treatment. If you know that she's taking more time off for tests etc, tell her you're thinking of her. Does she know about your mum's experience?

GrendelsMum Tue 03-Sep-13 20:59:15

Yes, it sounds like she meant 'flu used to be a death sentence' (as Mercibucket says, the Spanish influenza killed more people than died in the fighting in the First World War - google for photos and survivors testimonies if you're interested) 'but with modern medicine, most people now survive it'

elkiedee Tue 03-Sep-13 20:58:14

YANBU, but I'm sure you know that. Under the circumstances, it seems like a good idea to say as little as possible to her until you've calmed down, and vent elsewhere and/or on here as presumably this is doing.

I would have wanted to clonk your colleague, not that that would be a good idea!

I can't imagine anyone at my work would have been stupid enough to say that -too many cancer deaths among our colleagues, including my lovely boss (just before I was made redundant). My mum was diagnosed in February 2010, I'm very grateful to the NHS that she's had some extra time with us, but she now thinks she has a year or two and that she'll probably spend some of that being very ill and not being able to have active spells as she does now.

Ok, losing your grandparents or your parents or whoever isn't going through it yourself, but you finding it offensive is based on some experience of cancer.

mercibucket Tue 03-Sep-13 20:38:28

didnt more people die of flu after ww1, than died during it as casualties of war? flu pandemics kill millions.

i take her remark to mean ' flu used to be feared as a deadly disease, now it often means a week off work', 'cancer used to be a deadly disease but now we have ways of treating it so it is not as scary'

as she has had cancer herself, i wouldnt over think what she really meant, whether it is true or not etc.

Beeyump Tue 03-Sep-13 10:48:20

Thanks for the responses. I think I took her remark too personally, but I have also heard her say something like 'it's just not a killer illness like it used to be' and that paired with the flu thing seemed too flippant and generalising.

I agree with the posters who think that is her way of coping. But I reserve the right to feel a bit offended! grin

BarbarianMum Tue 03-Sep-13 09:57:49

I think that having cancer allows a person to speak however she likes about one's own experiences, not make wide generalisations tbh.

I have know 3 people diagnosed with cancer over the past 2 years and not one found it, or the treatment, anything less than deeply harrowing. Two are now dead, including my neighbour who was diagnosed 4 months ago. She was 29 sad

vladthedisorganised Tue 03-Sep-13 09:24:03

Hm, not sure where I stand on the 'one can't judge what another takes from their life experiences'.

If I didn't know her history I would have been very annoyed. If I did know her history I would have congratulated her on her own experience and her resilience in getting through the treatment, but would have reminded her strongly that many people aren't so lucky - in the same way that people might not know her experiences inside out, she doesn't know what other people are going through either.

As someone who has suffered from cancer, she can say what she likes about her own experience - if it helps her cope, fair enough.
As someone who has lost someone very dear to them through cancer and been with them from diagnosis to the moment they died, I also reserve the right to find the remark pretty stupid. She might not have to edit her remarks to accommodate others, but they equally don't have to edit their feelings to accommodate hers.

Rosesarebeautiful Tue 03-Sep-13 09:19:26

I would take it badly too. With Cancer prognosis very much depends on the type and how early it is found. Flu can kill too.

Having said that people make silly, thoughtless comments all the time. My kids have Tourettes, and I take very personally jokes made when people say ' Oh, I have Tourette's' ' as an apology for swearing or being indiscreet. I'm trying to ignore their thoughtlessness now.

Try not to over think it, maybe she was just reassuring herself. Not worth upsetting yourself over

Isthisoneleft Tue 03-Sep-13 09:12:29

I overheard a colleague say to another, that she thought it was disgusting the amount of money the NHS was wasting on treating people with cancer, and nature should be allowed to take its course.

That was offensive!

cory Tue 03-Sep-13 09:06:10

What trixymalixy and Thymeout said. This is a narrative she can live with.

She is trying to convince/reassure herself. If it was something she was saying to someone with breast cancer I think it would be incredibly insensitive. As she's presumably saying it to reassure herself I think it's incorrect but not insensitive. I suspect she means it was an awful thing she went through & is now over. I hope, in her case she's right.

tulipgrower Tue 03-Sep-13 09:00:58

In my circle of family and friends cancer is as common as the flu. sad

Thymeout Tue 03-Sep-13 08:53:58

I think she, more than most, is fully aware of the fact that cancer can and does come back. But her way of coping is to focus on the positive that in her case, bc, there is a good chance that it won't and, if it does, they're discovering new treatments all the time.

That's her prerogative and I think YABU in being offended. I'd certainly not try to disillusion her. The emotional effects of cancer are as difficult to live with as the physical ones. Let her deal with her own illness in the way that helps her best.

gottasmile Tue 03-Sep-13 08:29:45

I too, would have taken that to mean that it's becoming more common (unfortunately).

trixymalixy Tue 03-Sep-13 08:17:43

It's probably her way of stopping herself worrying about it all the time. She's probably all too aware that it may come back.

If she thinks of it like flu then it maybe appears less scary.

Fakebook Tue 03-Sep-13 08:15:34

I don't think it's offensive because to me or sounds like she meant cancer is very common these days, and she's right because we have so many more tests and research being done to diagnose it compared to 20-30 years ago.

candycoatedwaterdrops Tue 03-Sep-13 08:09:42

YABU and I think your thoughts on this statement are coloured by your opinions of her. I took it to mean as common as flu.

MrsBungle Tue 03-Sep-13 08:04:37

To me, the comment sounds flippant. It would take me back a bit.. My mum died of cancer. She wouldn't have died of flu - she was young and healthy. Maybe she did mean it is common and more people do seem to survive it. Flippant comments about cancer to me, though, aren't very nice . There was no getting over or curing my mum's cancer.

ll31 Tue 03-Sep-13 07:57:52

Yabu, it is not offensive.

daisychain01 Tue 03-Sep-13 07:56:31

It is the sort of comment that is throw-away and meaningless. Not worth engaging with the woman.. Just nod politely and move on, detach so you can get along with her at work. She is hardly a close friend!

Rooners Tue 03-Sep-13 07:51:08

You can say anything you like about your own experience but it isn't fair to transpose that onto other people's experience.

I think that's what it comes down to. So it depends on the context and what you think she meant.

cupcake78 Tue 03-Sep-13 07:19:42

Had it been a general comment from someone who hadn't been through it I'd say NBU. However she has more right to comment on this than anyone as she's been through it herself. Therefore YABU.

BlazinStoke Tue 03-Sep-13 07:16:04

Perhaps she was being sarcastic/angry/passive aggressive? This isn't aimed at you OP but I think there is a tendency to see cancer patients as either under an immediate death sentence or "cured" (ie in remission) and therefore perfectly ok) and your colleague is possibly fed up of trying to explain the long and stressful journey that someone with diagnosis has to travel?

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