What NOT to say to someone with Cancer

Compiled by members of My Cancer Family.

More insight from a breast cancer survivor

“So glad they caught it so early…:” which was also often combined with: …”with medicine today, you’ll be fine in no time.”  “To ME…. unless said by people to whom I’m genuinely close… it felt dismissive and patronizing… Again, to me, those statements always felt like someone was:
a) likening having breast cancer/requiring surgery to getting a cosmetic boob job (vs. double mastectomy with reconstruction that requires a months (sometimes years) long process. It doesn’t even consider the radiation or chemo part, 10 years of meds with side effects to follow. 
b) And, it also doesn’t even remotely take into account the terror, trauma, physical illness, loss of hair, family strain, physical pain of surgery, discomfort of drains, physical illness that can accompany chemo, gross changes to the body – damaged skin from radiation, hormone swings from forced menopause, etc.), depression/anxiety, etc.  — or any of the other countless physical and emotional aspects one goes through –  regardless of whether stage 1 or stage 4…   
Think of all the sexy new lingerie you can buy when your reconstruction is finished.”
(Thanks, that’ll be great, but I did have the thought, ” I’d rather have boring bras and my original healthy boobs than perky fake ones and new stripper bras.”
The other thing that I got tired of was people asking for how it happened, how I found out, how it was going: everyone always has story behind how they found out and it’s often emotional to tell, and triggering… especially when things aren’t going well either medically, or with a particular physician, etc.  So, DON’T ask for details. If someone wants to share it with you, they WILL. 


Do you say something?  Do you ignore it?  Do you try to compliment them?  Do you not? What do you do when their hair is growing back?  Here’s some memories from a 20+ year survivor.
“You look great – I can’t even tell you are wearing a wig”.  
I did not want people to lie or patronize me. I did not look great and my wig was not as nice as the wigs now so it was kind of obvious.
I also hated when people asked me if I was wearing a wig.  I felt very uncomfortable responding.  Again this happened such a long time ago and I was only 38, my kids were little, so I really did not want people to know I was bald.
And to follow that thought I hated when people told me I looked good with my short hair when it was growing back (especially at the beginning when it was really short).  I hated how I looked but my wig started looking terrible when I had hair underneath.  I would respond thank you but that short hair was not my choice and I was planning on letting it grow long again.