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I know it's not a competition in any way, with illness. But had a surprise when a friend messaged me to ask how I was doing. I replied &thanked her, said it was really nice to hear from her (particularly because I've been lonely, isolating myself, depression, etc). She literally responded with "Well, I got cancer so I'm sure it's worse than you..."  That's all she wrote, no elaboration.

What would you make of this reply? I'm empathic, and assume she's hurting or afraid. (btw I don't know if she still has it, or successfully treated already)

I literally had no idea what was going on and I gave her support, told her I'm here for her for anything if she wants to talk, but in a way, I feel hurt, because of the way people with illnesses always  "one up" and diminish each other, like experiencing one type of illness, trauma or pain is much worse than another?

Edited by Blahblah
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Wow. So she reached out to you so that she could tell you she was suffering more than you? Cancer is terrible, but that's not cool. I'd be hurt too.

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2 hours ago, Blahblah said:

  I literally had no idea what was going on and I gave her support, told her I'm here for her for anything if she wants to talk, but in a way, I feel hurt, because of the way people with illnesses always  "one up" and diminish each other, like experiencing one type of illness, trauma or pain is much worse than another?

I'm sorry that happened to you @Blahblah--------This is one of my pet peeves, for real.......I know a couple of people who call up occasionally, ask how I'm doing, and then proceed to describe all their physical ailments, like it's a contest who is suffering the most.....I am still sympathetic to them, and try to be supportive.

They act like their brand of suffering is worse than mine.

Suffering, no matter if it's mental or physical, is still suffering......It shouldn't be a contest.

Edited by CrazyRedhead
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I'm in a different country. But "How are you" or "How's it going" doesn't tend to be a legit question. It just replaces "Hello"

 

I'd wager that she was feeling sorry for herself, reached out for someone to talk to, used the wrong greeting and she had a strong emotional response to being confronted with a conversation focused on you (through no fault of your own) when her intent/hope was to vent about her cancer. 

 

I hope that didn't come out wrong 

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I know when I had cancer I was totally self centered on it. I didn’t care about anyone else’s issues for a while. Maybe that’s what your friend is going through—not that it’s cool, but I’ve been on both sides of this fence. I suspect you may get some comments that are different from your friends usual behavior for a while and need to be prepared for some of that. Like I said, it’s not cool, but it happens and I know when my friend was struggling with a dire prognosis she was totally selfish and at times inconsiderate while she went through her crisis and illness. It was hurtful but I had to see where she was coming from and I doubt I’d have done better if it were me. It’s not a competition but illness does lead to some changes, that’s for sure. 

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31 minutes ago, sugarsugar said:

I know when I had cancer I was totally self centered on it. I didn’t care about anyone else’s issues for a while. Maybe that’s what your friend is going through—not that it’s cool, but I’ve been on both sides of this fence. I suspect you may get some comments that are different from your friends usual behavior for a while and need to be prepared for some of that. Like I said, it’s not cool, but it happens and I know when my friend was struggling with a dire prognosis she was totally selfish and at times inconsiderate while she went through her crisis and illness. It was hurtful but I had to see where she was coming from and I doubt I’d have done better if it were me. It’s not a competition but illness does lead to some changes, that’s for sure. 

I totally understand your point, and it’s valid. I’ve never had a dire physical illness, so couldn’t say how I’d react, however, it just really sucks that MI can’t be as straightforward. We all know how people would react if we said “I’m depressed, severely depressed, and I might not live”. There would likely not be an outpouring of sympathy, there more likely would be uncomfortable silence. In a perfect world, there *shouldn’t* be a difference, but there is. It just sucks, is all I’m saying.

 I’m sorry this happened, BB. 

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5 hours ago, Blahblah said:

I know it's not a competition in any way, with illness. But had a surprise when a friend messaged me to ask how I was doing. I replied &thanked her, said it was really nice to hear from her (particularly because I've been lonely, isolating myself, depression, etc). She literally responded with "Well, I got cancer so I'm sure it's worse than you..."  That's all she wrote, no elaboration.

What would you make of this reply? I'm empathic, and assume she's hurting or afraid. (btw I don't know if she still has it, or successfully treated already)

I literally had no idea what was going on and I gave her support, told her I'm here for her for anything if she wants to talk, but in a way, I feel hurt, because of the way people with illnesses always  "one up" and diminish each other, like experiencing one type of illness, trauma or pain is much worse than another?

Does this person know you have severe, chronic depression? If they do, then I think what they said was ill thought-out at best. 

I agree with the others' sentiments that it's sad that suffering "pissing contests" seem to be a human trait and that it's sad that MI is not treated on a par with physical disease. 

Is the cancer terminal? If so, perhaps you can make light of it and have a joke race to the grave... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Edited by sming
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2 hours ago, DogMan said:

I'm in a different country. But "How are you" or "How's it going" doesn't tend to be a legit question. It just replaces "Hello"

I'd wager that she was feeling sorry for herself, reached out for someone to talk to, used the wrong greeting and she had a strong emotional response to being confronted with a conversation focused on you (through no fault of your own) when her intent/hope was to vent about her cancer. 

I hope that didn't come out wrong 

You have been mistaken: There was no Greeting...Literally all she asked was "How are you doing?" The focus was not "all about me" I didn't tell her my life story, I responded to her question with a few sentences of what I've been up to and "how I've been doing."  and "what's new with you?" Exactly (I think) how any normal person would respond...

And I don't think it's necessarily "feeling sorry for yourself" to reach out to connect with someone. No shame or judgement in that. We are social beings and need interaction..if someone needs to vent, why not? I don't think it's selfish at all....I'm willing to listen and I give loads of support to others. I only wish more people would do that! We are not robots.

Mainly, I was just confused I guess, why someone would ask how I am and reply this way.

Edited by Blahblah
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12 minutes ago, sming said:

Is the cancer terminal? If so, perhaps you can make light of it and have a joke race to the grave... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Well, I replied with more support, concern and asked her if there was anything I could do, how she was feeling, if she wanted to talk...All she said it was skin cancer she had 6 mos ago, she had it removed successfully, it has not returned. She didn't say anything at all about how she's doing or how she's feeling, or the status. Which makes it difficult to respond.....I'm not going to ask her if it's terminal...I'm just confused.

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17 minutes ago, Blahblah said:

I'm not going to ask her if it's terminal...I'm just confused.

There are three basic types of skin cancer:  Basal cell (very common), Squamous cell (2nd most common), and melanoma (the rarest).

Basal cell and squamous cell cancer aren't terminal, these types are easily removed when they're small, and surgical removal with clean margins is curative.

Unlike basal and squamous cell skin cancers, melanoma can metastasize and spread to other parts of the body more rapidly, and if left untreated, can be fatal.....However, if melanoma is caught early and treated, chances for recovery are good.

If your friend's skin cancer was removed 6 months ago, and has not returned, she's probably in the clear

Edited by CrazyRedhead
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14 minutes ago, CrazyRedhead said:

There are three basic types of skin cancer:  Basal cell (very common), Squamous cell (2nd most common), and melanoma (the rarest).

Basal cell and squamous cell cancer aren't terminal, these types are easily removed when they're small, and surgical removal with clean margins is curative.

Unlike basal and squamous cell skin cancers, melanoma can metastasize and spread to other parts of the body more rapidly, and if left untreated, can be fatal.....However, if melanoma is caught early and treated, chances for recovery are good.

If your friend's skin cancer was removed 6 months ago, and has not returned, she's probably in the clear

Thank you so much for this clarification! She mentioned a mole that was removed, but did not say what it was classified as. I'm assuming it is one of the more common ones...Any medical diagnosis can be scary though...

Edited by Blahblah
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4 hours ago, Blahblah said:

Thank you so much for this clarification! She mentioned a mole that was removed, but did not say what it was classified as. I'm assuming it is one of the more common ones...Any medical diagnosis can be scary though...

The "C" word is always scary......If you feel comfortable doing so, maybe you could ask what type it was?

To put some perspective on this, my grandmother, who was also a redhead, got squamous cell in her later years.....It was surgically removed with no further issues.

Edited by CrazyRedhead

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4 hours ago, DogMan said:

I'm in a different country. But "How are you" or "How's it going" doesn't tend to be a legit question. It just replaces "Hello"

I'd wager that she was feeling sorry for herself, reached out for someone to talk to, used the wrong greeting and she had a strong emotional response to being confronted with a conversation focused on you (through no fault of your own) when her intent/hope was to vent about her cancer. 

That was my guess as well, based on the assumption that this friend isn't usually unkind.

I've been in a lot of conversations where "How are you?" was not really a question being asked, but just a generic conversation starter. So my guess would be that your friend said "How are you?" when she really meant "I just found out that I have cancer and I am freaking out". Then any response from you that wasn't going in that direction (a direction you did not yet know about) was upsetting to her

1 hour ago, Blahblah said:

All she said it was skin cancer she had 6 mos ago, she had it removed successfully, it has not returned.

Well, that rules out my initial guess of what she really meant, but I still suspect it was a variation on "I'm starting this conversation specifically to talk about my cancer". Which I think is a reasonable thing to want, but I do wish people would just lead with what they wanted

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8 minutes ago, Ion said:

I've been in a lot of conversations where "How are you?" was not really a question being asked, but just a generic conversation starter. 

don't forget :

what's up? s'up?
- how's it going?
- morning. (short for "Good Morning" - which is never is)
- hi, how are you? (whilst smiling and keeping on walking)

In my office experience, the above are often equivalent to "hello". I've often fantasized about replying honestly e.g.

<them> how's it going?
<me> actually I'm in severe emotional, physical and cognitive pain and dearly wish I was dead. How're you?

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This is a serious question: Is your friend usually a bitch?

Have you ever heard the (quasi) funny line “But that’s enough about me. What do you think of me?” I think contacting someone after a long silence, specifically asking how they’re doing, and then acting pissy and melodramatically one-upping them in the suffering Olympics is a totally shit thing to do. I think you should consider the idea that she contacted you just so that she could blow up at someone for not “answering right,” and that she had a very specific answer in mind, which was basically “Fine, thanks, how are you?” Had she gotten that answer she could’ve told you her harrowing tale, and received your empathy on her terms. She didn’t take into account that you are a real live flesh and blood person, with problems and needs of your own. 

If your friend is not usually a bitch, she’s still guilty of being monumentally self-centered and of making the mistake of thinking that bodily illness is more “legit” serious or painful than what we go through. It isn’t fair, and it isn’t right, and I don’t blame you at all for feeling hurt. 

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4 hours ago, Gearhead said:

This is a serious question: Is your friend usually a bitch?

Have you ever heard the (quasi) funny line “But that’s enough about me. What do you think of me?” I think contacting someone after a long silence, specifically asking how they’re doing, and then acting pissy and melodramatically one-upping them in the suffering Olympics is a totally shit thing to do. I think you should consider the idea that she contacted you just so that she could blow up at someone for not “answering right,” and that she had a very specific answer in mind, which was basically “Fine, thanks, how are you?” Had she gotten that answer she could’ve told you her harrowing tale, and received your empathy on her terms. She didn’t take into account that you are a real live flesh and blood person, with problems and needs of your own. 

If your friend is not usually a bitch, she’s still guilty of being monumentally self-centered and of making the mistake of thinking that bodily illness is more “legit” serious or painful than what we go through. It isn’t fair, and it isn’t right, and I don’t blame you at all for feeling hurt. 

I don't even know her *that* well...I've literally gone out with her socially in a group 2-3 times (last was over a year ago), we currently live in different countries. She's not been a bitch or self-centered. Maybe more an acquaintance than a friend. We literally never talk, or exchange messages really. We like each others photos on FB, that's the extent.

So you can imagine it was strange to out of the blue, get an instant mssg saying "How are you?" And have such a weird blunt reply was just a bit off-putting you know? Just wanted to check that it isn't a normal reaction. Oh well, communication via text is hard to decifer sometimes.

17 hours ago, sming said:

don't forget :

what's up? s'up?
- how's it going?
- morning. (short for "Good Morning" - which is never is)
- hi, how are you? (whilst smiling and keeping on walking)

In my office experience, the above are often equivalent to "hello". I've often fantasized about replying honestly e.g.

<them> how's it going?
<me> actually I'm in severe emotional, physical and cognitive pain and dearly wish I was dead. How're you?

I know, sometimes I just want to say..."well, do you REALLY want to know or are you just being polite?" In reality, nope, no one wants to hear it!!!! So we just reply "I'm fine (add generic comment about being so busy), then how are you?" Over & over again. So stupid.

Edited by Blahblah

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There is no hierarchy of suffering.

"I'm in pain so I don't have to care about anyone else's pain now" is one way to look at it, I suppose.

It would almost be funny if it wasn't sad. Imagine texting around all your friends with "how are you" and then whatever they answer saying "Oh well, it's nice for some! I have cancer!"

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Let's play misery limbo! How low can you go? I've got cancer. Oh my God that's awful. I'm sure it's worse than you. Erm OK. Maybe it is but misery is supposed to love company not competition. I read somewhere about a guy who beat cancer and then years later suffered from depression. I remember this because he said the depression was far worse than having cancer. I don't know if that's always true but it just shows how pointless it is to say that your suffering is worse than anyone else's.

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I also have a hard time with friends/acquaintances who not only diminish the ravages of depression but really don't want to hear about it at all. In fact, one friend said to me the other day that if I did have peripheral neuropathy, which he does,  I would be too distracted to be depressed. ha! As if.

In the Standford lecture on depression (pinned at the top of this forum)  Prof. Sapolsky says something like,

"at least with cancer you can enjoy the sunset". 

That said, I find that most people have no interest at all in knowing how someone is feeling and much prefer to vent their own woes. Empathy is hard to find these days. Many people do say 'how are you doing' as a way of just saying, 'hello', not really expecting anyone to answer.  Your particular friend wanted to vent and if it was a friendship that I valued, I would probably let her and stuff my own stuff. 

But as the years go by I am dropping those friendships where I am always drained of my understanding and receive very little in return. 

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