The health police – Cancer patient ignores unsolicited medical advice

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The health police: enough already!
Ever felt as if you were under citizen’s arrest when a well-meaning friend or stranger asked if you really needed that slice of cake? Or whether your kids should be outside on such a hot day? We’ve got the comebacks that’ll put the health police behind bars

By Bonny Reichert
First published in Chatelaine’s July 2003 issue.
© Rogers Publishing Ltd.

Cancer patient ignores unsolicited medical advice

The offence Penny was 36 years old when she was first treated for breast cancer. At 37, it metastasized from the lymph nodes under her arm and reached her liver. “My oncologist told me I might have only three months to live. Then we just sat there and stared at each other for half an hour.”

Seven months and a second course of chemotherapy later, Penny is doing well. On leave from her job, she is focusing on taking care of herself and enjoying each day. Although she is surrounded by well-meaning friends and family, once in a while Penny has to deal with some seriously inappropriate health policing. “People will say, ‘Why can’t you just have a liver or bone marrow transplant?’ as though it’s so clear to them but not to my doctors and me,” says Penny. “If it’s someone I don’t know very well who has no clue and is just throwing information at me, it can be pretty offensive.”

Worst of all are the “think positive” people. Although Penny tries to be optimistic, she doesn’t like having this hollow phrase tossed at her. “I’d rather they acknowledge that I have this and not fluff over it. I wish they’d say, ‘I think it sucks that you have this and you must feel really shitty.'”

Background check As Penny knows, there are a million alternative cancer treatments but nothing, from thinking positively to ingesting shark cartilage, has been proven. That doesn’t mean that someone like Penny doesn’t want to supplement her treatment with other approaches–she definitely does. But since she knows more about her condition than almost anyone else, she isn’t likely to benefit from an uneducated quick fix.

The verdict Supporting an ailing friend is helpful. Attempting to heal her probably is not.

Your comeback “My doctor went to school for many years so he could treat people like me. Are you sure you know more than he does?”


  • Intro
  • Pregnant woman takes drugs
  • New mother weans baby
  • Woman dares to wine and dine
  • Whistle blown on latte habit
  • Canadians shirk the shot
  Cancer patient ignores unsolicited medical advice
 
  • Safe medications for pregnant women
  • Tea benefits
  • Cold + flu guide
 
  • Trade health police stories in our Health forum