real life

What happens when the person you love most in the world gets cancer.


Nora McInery and husband.

Cry. Punch a pillow. Punch a wall. Gently.

Break something. From my experience, bottles are satisfying, but I’ve heard fantastic things about light bulbs as well. Fantasize about breaking something bigger.

Love them hard. Love them the way they need to be loved, which is sometimes gentler than what you want to give them.

Leave a note on the counter before you leave for work in the morning. Hide another in their wallet.

Be there.

Go away.

Treat them real special, real nice. Send a jet for them tonight because they can have whatever they liiiiiiiiike. They can have whatever they liiiiiike.

Treat them like a normal person. Because cancer isn’t an excuse to leave your clothes right next to the hamper when there is a perfectly good hamper just waiting to be filled with dirty clothing.

There’s not a right thing to do or a wrong thing to do, and sometimes there is nothing to do at all. There aren’t any right words to say or wrong words to say.

….Except for “God has his reasons.” For the love of Pete, never say that unless you want to get kicked in the throat because, really? You think God is behind this? Well then, I guess you think that God cares about who wins the Super Bowl and whether or not you make the bus in which case, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!

You can be sad.

You will be sad.

You can be strong.

You will be strong.

You will be whatever they need you to be, but more importantly, you will let them continue to be themselves. You will let them be sad. Or angry. You will let them punch something (gently) or get a neck tattoo or run a marathon or just continue living their lives like average people because that is what they are.

They’re not just statistics and pity cases and yellow rubber bracelets and Facebook statuses that you better share for just ONE HOUR to show your support, otherwise you’re a cancer-loving sonofabitch. They’re people. Our people.

What do you do when the person you love gets cancer?

Your very best.

This post originally appeared on My Husband’s Tumor and is republished here with full permission. 

Nora McInerny Purmort is the tallest girl in the room. She lives in Northeast Minneapolis with her husband Aaron and their baby, Ralph. She also writes about love and life at her blog, My Husband’s Tumor and is at work on her first book.

Has cancer touched your family? How did you cope? 

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