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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: 29th January, 2024
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. 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. 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. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

    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.

  6. 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. 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

    2. 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

    3. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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,

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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. 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

    2. 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

    3. 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

    4. 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

  12. 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

  13. 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

  14. 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

  15. 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

  16. I was a fire fighter in Liverpool for 22 years on Feb14th 2014 i was diagnosed with incurable multiple myeloma . I was scared for about a week until i found out my options and the outlook wasn't to bleak. I had chemo and in Sept 14 I had a stem cell transplant. I went into remission until July 17 I've just finished my second Transplant at Christie over Christmas. I've never been scared I found this 2nd time more mentally challenging because I knew what was coming. People don't say I'm brave . I'm not brave . I m 50 years young and I look at children fighting cancer and I consider them to be brave.
    You get one chance at life and what we each make of it is personal. I would never dwell on my misfortune I'm fortunate that we have such an amazing health service. Imagine people in this world without.
    So don't be brave be yourself. I don't laugh every day, I don't thank God for everyday, I don't look at each day with wonder. I go about my day not being brave I'm just me. I like being me and maybe just maybe science will find a cure.Maybe not in my lifetime but hopefully soon.

  17. I have never had cancer, I have several family members who have and are fighting for their lives. Some died, some survived and some are still going through treatment. I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what to do and I cannot pretend to know what it feels like. What I do know is, it is agonising to watch your loved one go through the treatment, live with the pain and almost fade away in front of your eyes. I wish I felt that I had given some comfort to my relatives but this bastard of a disease is cruel to the sufferers and those who love them. These posts from Cancer Care Parcel help, reading the comments from those going through treatment let’s me understand that everyone is different and their needs are different and could change from day to day. One comment that sticks in my mind is not to say “your so brave” because as the commentator said “there is no choice, you are fighting for your life”. So thank you for these posts and I hope one day we conquer and obliterate this disease from everyone’s lives.

  18. You mentioned my daughter.. Caroline Dick as. A cancer patient in 2017 age 41. She died last month at age of 43.leaving a 4 year old son.

  19. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2020, my world literally fell apart and as I currently go through my surgery and treatment I can say that for me the hardest part is when I finally broke my silence and told people how crushed and frightened I felt, to be told ‘stay positive’, ‘it’s a good cancer to have’ and ‘you’ll get through it” sent me straight back into myself and now I don’t tell anybody how I feel and instead I’m crying inside and feel like I can’t breathe, I know people don’t know what to say but if you don’t know what to say how about you just listen, let people with cancer talk to you when they show you they are ready, don’t shut them down x

    1. We totally agree. Hope that you have found someone to talk to. Cancer Care Parcel are trying to change the way people talk about cancer as you are so right. People make you put on a brave face and don't allow you to express your emotions. Its so very wrong and they don't understand.

  20. I was diagnosed with ependymoma (brain and spinal cancer) in 1995, I was 14. It was a very scary and confusing time for me. I really struggled with what I was feeling. A couple things that were always hard for me was one being told to be strong or brave, I felt like I had to hold in everything I was feeling to be strong for everyone else. People would ask how are you doing emphasizing the you, I knew what they were asking about, I wasn't ready to talk about it so I would pretend I didn't know what they were talking about and I got really automatic at saying I was fine. The second thing that people would say is if you pray hard enough it will go away. That was very frustrating as I felt I was always saying prayers.

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