Remember that childhood rhyme ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’? How far from the truth that is?!
In honour of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, we’re been shining a light on the clumsy things said to people with lung cancer and offering help on how to actually talk to someone dealing with a diagnosis. And today, on World Kindness Day, this message feels even more poignant.
We appreciate these words are not meant to hurt. No one, we hope, intentionally sets out to say any inappropriate, insensitive or cruel but yet, so often, this can be the end result.
We only need to look at yesterday’s somewhat passionate exchange on Twitter involving lung cancer patients and the Sky News presenter, Alison Comyn.
On Saturday 9th November, the Sky News presenter interviewed comedian and Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation ambassador, John Ryan, about our Follow my Lead campaign and poem. Comyn appeared fixated on smoking and, despite John repeatedly highlighting the aim of the campaign – to find a better way to talk about lung cancer – she played ‘devil’s advocate’ and continued to press the issue.
As a result, many took to Twitter to share their opinions, air their grievances and express their hurt and disappointment.
Make kindness the norm
We speak to people living with lung cancer every day. Many of us who work at the charity have been personally affected by the disease. Yet, none of us truly understands what it is like to be told ‘You have lung cancer’.
What we do understand, however, is the need to help. The need to support. The need to be kind.
This is the essence of Follow my Lead; understand what helps the individual and do it. So, instead of these engrained clichés, these banal platitudes, these hurtful remarks, we make kindness the norm. We ask them if they need anything, not ‘How long have you got?’. We ask them how they are, not ‘Did you smoke?’
What a place that would be…