Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What to Say (And Not Say) to Premenopausal Women with Breast Cancer

I get many wonderful, heartfelt, and most importantly, funny, things said to me about my breast cancer.

Here are the things I like:

1. "I'm sending good vibes/healthy thoughts you way."

I really appreciate this. Not on a New Age or politically correct basis, but on a truth basis. If I know you are either an athesist or agnostic, it is really weird to hear that you are praying for me. It's a "Hail Mary" pass, in the truest sense of the phrase. (I merit a suspension of your religious beliefs?)

2. "I'm praying for you." I DO LIKE THIS. If you are a believer, any kind of believer, I appreciate it.

3. "What kind of meal can I bring you?" This is a direct action offer. I know what kind of help you can give; you know that I might not be up to my normal gourmet-cooking status.

4. "Do you need help with cleaning your house/gardening?" Haven't heard this one yet, but there is always hope. AND THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS YES.

5. "Let me know what I can do to help." OK, let me clarify the problem with this-it's great to want to help me. A better way to put is to give an exact suggestion, i.e. like, "Let me do your laundry."

Things Not Say to Someone with Cancer

1. "The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away." I got that from a lady at the grocery store. (I talk to people in line; so sue me.)

Um..I'm not quite sure what to do with that one. The Lord gave me a breast and is taking away. OK. See that. But then He is also giving me a new one, made of abdominal fat and tissue. Does this mean the Lord giveth and taketh away my love handles? I'm a little confused here.

2. "Everything happens for a reason." Even if you believe this, it's one of the worst things you can say. CJ & company were with my at Hooter's for my "Farewell to My Ta-Ta" outing last Saturday night and this is what our very nice waitress said.

I just really wanted my spicy boneless buffalo wings, not a debate on fate, predestination, karma, etc. Especially since my response to this theory is usually: "Really, everything happens for a reason? Is that why children get kidnapped and raped? Thanks for clearing that up."

3. Which brings me to #3. If you don't know what to say to someone with cancer, any kind of cancer, it's OK to tell them, "I don't know what to say that will be comforting." In fact, I've never met anyone, of any age/generation, that didn't appreciate emotional honesty on this subject.


  1. Polly...while I too am not so sure what to say to you since we have spent a lot of time together since we were something like 16, I was just sitting here remembering all the times we sat out on your parents roof or in the sauna (damn you had a cool house to hang out at!!). Such awsome times!
    When you are well, we will take a trip to a spa somplace and sit in the sauna together and gossip...how much fun will that be!

  2. I still stand by my comment, although not appropriate, in my eyes.