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For Everyone Touched By Cancer

"Stop Telling Me To Be Brave" Campaign To Support People With Cancer

Written by Cancer Care Parcel on 
16th January, 2020
Updated: 20th November, 2021
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Cancer Care Parcel looks to further support people with Cancer by launching the "STOP TELLING ME TO BE BRAVE" campaign.


To answer your questions about this campaign:-

Why Launch This Campaign? Won't you upset people?

Whilst researching for our two books (What to say to someone with cancer and How to treat someone newly diagnosed with cancer) we found an overwhelming number of people with cancer disliked being told to be brave.

UNFORTUNATELY, THE BOOK PROGRESS HAS BEEN HALTED. Most of our data was collected via social media polls and our accounts were hacked and we have lost a lot of information

A small sample of the comments are below:-

Susan Smith The words..fight it. The word CANCER it's scary you have no choice. Trying to be brave and not upset or angry and keeping up appearances when your in pain feeling low and on your own.. 

Lesley Jackson don't say u are so brave... I was frightened but what choice do u have but to get on with the treatment , just listen 

Suzanne Wright I've had 3 diagnoses of cancer. It's really not helpful when people say "you're so brave". It's not like you have a choice to go through all the sh**!

Christine Davies I know people mean well but when they tell me that they admire my bravery, I want to shout out that I am not brave. I had no choice in accepting the cancer diagnosis, the operation, the chemo, the drugs etc

Lorraine Moriarty I got fed up of people saying "You must be so frightened."  I can honestly say I never felt frightened - apprehensive sometimes, wondering how chemo would be and suchlike - but I made up my mind that this was an illness I was going to recover from.  I do realise that this approach isn't for everyone, especially those with more advanced cancer, but it worked for me

Kerry Barker  A few people have said 'you are soooo brave' to me. If I am totally honest it made me cringe. I wish i could accept it as a compliment, but i can't. I am just doing what i have to. To save my life. Save the bravery for those who deserve it much more than me..

Emma Gibson ...not being brave as someone else said.. we have no choice.... don't want to be ignored but don't want pity.... 

Anita Brown "Stay positive" "you're so brave" and "you're an inspiration" are the phrases that annoy me coz I'm not brave or inspirational im just trying to live my life and stay positive needs to be taken out the dictionary as it's so bloody annoying, I am staying positive but it's still bloody terminal! 

Denise Faulkner I have been diagnosed with cancer 3 times people say you are brave my reply is no I'm not brave but my children are for walking by my side and holding my hand

Caroline Dick I have stage 4 bowel cancer and I hated when people say how brave or strong i am. Im not but ive got a 2 year old I've not got time to be ill

Donna Antrobus I am sick of being told I'm brave, and look so well, and your so positive, I put a fake smile on, I really want to tell people to F off, and sick I being everyone's agony aunt, I'm the one with cancer, wish people would wake up, or just say nothing, you can quote me, I try my best to always be positive but I have down days, and miner problems that people winge to me about I can not be bothered with anymore, sorry for the rant 

Fiona Southern I really dislike being told to 'stay positive ' sometimes we have to be real, we hit low times, deal with pain on a daily basis, lack sleep but put the mask on so we don't make other people feel uncomfortable. We all have to face our 'new normal' and don't want to be grateful for having survived with, in my case, life changing surgery and complications.

What Will The Campaign Do?

The Campaign will highlight what is good and what is bad about the language that we use when talking to people with cancer.

How You Can Help

We encourage you to submit your stories to us about what has been said to you or someone you know.

Positive and the less than positive experiences are welcome so that we can start to GET IT RIGHT when talking to people with cancer.

Further Reading

How To Help Someone With Cancer: What You Need To Know

Personal Cancer Stories / Cancer Blogs

How to Help A Breast Cancer Patient

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71 comments on “"Stop Telling Me To Be Brave" Campaign To Support People With Cancer”

  1. Korea Hanbury says:

    I had bowl cancer 7years ago.i woke up in August 2011 (just after my 44 th birthday) with a bad belly. Just thought it was that time of month. An amberlance took me to the Gwent. I had a scan and thay found a blockage but wasn't sure wot it was. So thay operated and it was bowl cancer. Thay removed 2foot of my bowels and my nifglanes.ive got a big scare going done passed my belly button. But 8days later I went home. And so far all my ct scales Ave been clear thank good..

  2. Michelle Roberts says:

    I’ve had cancer twice still got it .No one had actually said this to me .I keep getting ,you do look well .Why has it changed my face ?Also they say to me ,be positive.Your whole way of life has just coming tumbling down .Youve gone through chemo and radiotherapy coming out the other end a very different person and they want you to be positive.Im in a position now I’m stable but still living with memories of treatment and standing on a cliff waiting for it to start again .My family are fabulous but there is no one else to talk to or advice me .They are saying be brave because they don’t know how to talk to you or what to say .So I can understand that too

  3. For me, I'm not sure I was brave - you have no choice and have to face whatever you need to do.

    1. I totally agree with you. And to acknowledge is just as important... Go to be open ❤

  4. How You Can Help
    • *We encourage you to submit your stories (500 words or more) to us (contact [@] about what has been said to you or someone you know.
    • *Positive and the less than positive experiences are welcome so that we can start to GET IT RIGHT when talking to people with cancer.
    • *Create awareness of the campaign but sharing the stories and using the hashtag

  5. 2 choices...sit in the corner and wait to die OR
    Get up and fight
    I chose the 2 nd option after being told i had 8 months to 2 years to live
    That was over 4 years ago!
    My saying is.” Im not dying from cancer,Im living with it”
    I dont consider myself brave,just determined,tenacious and trying my hardest to stay alive to watch my 2 vety young grandsons grow up
    They are my reason

    1. What a inspiration you are we kept telling mum the same thing but sadly it wasn't to be x

  6. I found it very hard to fight but with my family surport a care thay was my Rock a Lord l believe ther help me through illness as time go on a anoth year feel l be blessed over gain for 2018 Godbless you all ❤❤ xx

  7. I'd like to know how exactly to 'fight' because that's what many people say. But what does it mean?

    1. People complain to us also about being told to fight. Particularly when a loved one has died the implication is that they stoped fighting. Its hard to change the language we use and also to understand how people diagnosed with cancer are feeling. Also some cancer patients are fighting and are brave. Our feeling though is that by using the terms fight and brave you are taking away the choice from cancer patients to wallow, be angry and upset etc etc. Some put on a brave face because that is what is expected. Some say they are fighting when really they are just doing what they are the told by Drs or are very scared but cant talk about it because they are expected to fight. On a personal note, and to answer your question. I didnt fight at all. I did what I was told by the experts and hopefully May 2018 I will be off all the medication and cancer free. I was neither brave or a fighter. But I have been fortunate in my treatment.

  8. Christine be what and how you want to be x at times people dont know what to say to you and often treat you differently. Its ok to feel scared worried or upset and its ok to be positive. Whatever gets you through x thinking of you x

    1. Thanks Debra. At times I am fine and at others I am scared. Really scared. A bit of an emotional roller coaster I'm afraid. X

    2. I bet it is. If u need to talk I'm a good listener xx remember what we preach to people take all help you can it's not only your physical health you need to look after xx

    3. I know. Holistic approach. Trouble is all the staff are so overworked, like us, that emotional wellbeing does get overlooked. I have experienced it so I know. When your body is weakened and you are in their hands it is very difficult. Xx

    4. Until you have been there no one knows how they would feel. I'm with Debra in that you must feel a vast range of emotions. I am always here if you need a shoulder or a cuppa xxxx

  9. After I was diagnosed I didn't like it when people referred the cancer as a "thing", as if it was something that decided to attack you and you had to fight it. I treated it as what it is, binary fission gone wild and I used every tool offered to me in order to tame it. It's your own body causing the problem not something that's invaded your body. Yes it's hard to keep positive but it's ok to fall apart sometimes because each time you do the regroup is even stronger. Hold your head up and carry on.

    1. I like this..helps you to work with your body and still love and protect it, not treat it like an aluen invasion

  10. I was the same as Michelle, and Julie, shocked at first. Denial, pissed off, and being angry brought out the fight in me,
    Just keep researching, don't give up, there are success stories,
    Get second opinions, even worldwide,
    If you get down and give up, so will your immune system, which is the fight within you,

  11. I was really annoyed when people where telling me to be brave, i had two very young children, i was trying my best, thats all anyone can do, its difficult as you feel very much on your own unless you are talking to someone who has already been through treatment.

  12. I'd like to say that I hate people saying don't worry about it ull get through this nae problem I no u will aye right don't know what is going through my head though right now do they just been told a month ago I have cancer and my girlfriend was given the all clear in September of lung cancer and now it is back stage 4 so they've gave her a year and started her chemo straight away 48yr old so so sad this world we live in 2 see so many people suffering from this horrible decease in this day in age ude think there was some kind of cure by now soz rant over and good luck to everyone fighting this decease all the best and luv cheers.stu x

  13. Thoughts to everyone suffering this horrible disease, I too have lung cancer and don't know what the future's not always easy to be positive & brave but just taking one day at a time, take care all xx

    1. so sorry Barbara I didn't know I'm totally shocked life is so cruel xxx

    2. Hi Anne I didn't find out until November I am under Christies I start my treatment next week I felt fit and well when they told me I had lung cancer and had gone to my bones I was in shock you take care I will be in touch xxx

    3. Hi Barbara, sorry to hear you too have this rubbish illness. I was diagnosed in December last year, just after Christmas and it also in my back ( bones), don't know how I get through the day sometimes, I just do. Have had chemo, radiotherapy , ovaries removed because it had spread there, aw it's been a nightmare year, I'm now on immunotherapy and praying everyday . Take care xx

    4. Hi Maxine so sorry to hear you have had a you have had rubbish year I am just starting treatment I have had radiotherapy on my chest and spine and starting chemo next week they said at first I could go for a trial but with the cancer being where it's is I was not suitable I also got a daughter with cancer she as been fighting for 10years it started in the Brest then when to the bones then last year it went to her liver so I have looked after her for 10 years so to find out I had it not me for six I Its nice to speak to someone who knows how you feel you take care xxxx

    5. Aw barbara bless you looking after your daughter, have 2 sons of my own and can't imagine how that must feel but i do know how you feel and I will be thinking of you xx I get my scan on Monday to see if my immunotherapy is working..terrified is an understatement, but have to keep going xx

    6. Big hugs Barbara,, from another Barbara,, just recovering from breast cancer xxx

  14. The pressure is too much and you just don’t know until you go threw it but don’t give up aye at times you will want to. I have had two operations in a month and going for radiotherapy and tablets fir fu e years but I class myself as one lucky lady cause it’s gone fir now and I am still here so look forward babe although it’s hard to do thoughts are with you your not alone girl xxx

  15. We are all different my pet hate is people who survive are fighters as I've lost both parents young to cancer and had breast cancers myself which had gone into 2lymp nodes I'm now nearly 25yrs come 2nd Feb thanks to our brilliant NHS

  16. I have no choice only doing what am doing,,, am not brave am getting on with what I have to,,, to stay alive

  17. Yes it pisses me off when people tell patients to be brave ... to me that’s condescending and non helpful ... they are fighting and scared lonely and apprehensive !

  18. I have cancer I'm living with it not dying of it
    I don't feel brave and don't need to be told to be brave I'm trying hard to live my life while fighting cancer doing whatever I have to survive xxxx

  19. I don't think people relate to must be must be positive. must fight.....I just want to be myself again!!! And feel I'm just a normal person.. going through this... and hope to see that light at the end of this!!!! It's a struggle to cope for most people... so we don't need strong..positive. .talk we just need support and to be able to be us..x

  20. I say to people that say stupid things and sometimes cruel until you have walked my path keep your mouth shut this is a good thing good luck with it

  21. I have secondary breast cancer so not curable but treatable , I’m not brave, but I’m determined to live with my cancer for a long time .....