Over the past, almost year now, I've encountered for the most part wonderful gracious people when you tell them you are a Breast Cancer Soldier (meaning you're still battling) or Survivor (you've been declared Cancer-Free). However, like in any situation, I've also encountered some weird and insensitive commentary.
So for those who don't know what to say the next time you hear a person say, "I'm battling or been diagnosed with Breast Cancer (or any debilitating physical disease or ailment for that matter), here's a short list of what you probably shouldn't say, ask or do...
1) Keep in touch and call me when you want to talk:
*Sigh* I get you don't want to disturb me, but the expectation that I should call you when I want to talk is ludicrous. There were days I couldn't make it anywhere but from the bed to the bowl. You call me. If I can and am willing to talk, I will. If it's a bad day, I'll let your call go into voicemail and get back you when I can. Don't take it personally. I'm battling the big C.
2) Does it run in your family?
If answering this question comes out in conversation, fine. When you ask this question, and the answer is no, I've gotten an "aww... that's really tragic" feel. When I answer yes, I get the facial expression or sentiment of, "okay... then you kinda should have expected it..." Newsflash: nobody deserves Cancer, Aids, MS, ALS or any condition, illness or disease. Whether or not it runs in your family shouldn't dictate one's level of empathy.
3) At least advances have been made; it's not like it used to be so you'll be alright:
Whenever you start off with "at least" you might want to stop right there. Yes advances have been made and I'm grateful for that. However, in that moment, when you get or deliver the news, the advances in battling the disease don't lesson your anxiety about it. When you say at least, think about your purpose for saying what you're saying.
4) Make sure you get up everyday, put on your make-up and don't lie around:
See #1. Do you think a person who is lying around really wants to be? In between pooping and puking my brains out, as my limbs buckle every ten seconds, I would love to make it 30 ft. to my patio and experience the sunshine but right now... I can't. And applying "Cherries in the Snow" lipstick isn't going to help.
5) Ask what one's type of or stage someone's cancer is in:
Or any other personally detailed question. If one wants to volunteer personal information, by all means discuss it. However when the question is asked, especially of a newly diagnosed person, I want to know why are you asking? Does it matter? It's almost as if the answer dictates one's level of empathy. I especially loved it when I answered with Breast Cancer and I've gotten an, "oh well that's not so bad" look or feel. I really love it when one lunges in about someone they know who had stage 4 pancreatic cancer as if that cancer trumps my cancer--NOT. Cancer is Cancer. Period.
Check back on Thursday for Part 2...