Wednesday, April 29, 2009


We had lunch with a couple of friends, one of them, Joy, is a cancer survivor. We were talking about an acquaintance of hers and how the woman couldn’t eat a meal in peace at her club for all the well-intentioned well wishers interrupting her. Sensing that she had a sense of humor, Joy’s friend said to the woman, “The cancer’s not going to kill you, it’s the well wishers.” He wasn’t far from the truth in that people meaning well can say some really silly, cold, inappropriate things to cancer patients.

Joy was just 53 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and she has plenty to say about what people say.

It irked her when people felt compelled to share stories about others who had cancer or were battling it. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SHARE.

“Don’t worry, you will be fine or you will surely beat this,” were other comments that she could’ve done without. Not one of them came from a specialist. Some ‘specialists’ assured Joy’s 14-year-old son that his mommy was going to be fine. And luckily she was and still is. DON’T BECOME A KNOW IT ALL UNLESS YOU KNOW IT ALL.

“I couldn’t stand the facial expressions,” she said. They were either doom or gloom or pity.” PITY IS NOT A CURE.

Others wanted a blow by blow of her treatment schedule and even wanted to know if her hair was going to fall out. DON’T ASK, LISTEN.

Married at the time, she told her husband’s cousin, whom she considered a good friend about her diagnosis. He expressed deep sorrow for her husband not Joy! It got worse. Her former mother-in-law pointed out that, “Breast cancer is nothing, so many women get it.” TRY REALLY HARD NOT TO BE AS STUPID.

And then there were those who knew what to do and say. Her best friend reassured her that she was there for her. “I’ll go with you to radiation if that works for you,” she offered. Joy’s daughter, 24 years old at the time became her surrogate and answered questions when friends called. BE SENSITIVE AND PATIENT.

What can the patient do? “I think it’s important to do the homework, make your choices so you can let friends and family know that it’s being managed and to be there if you need to talk.” She added, “I feel blessed for the early diagnosis, great doctors. I’m a warmer, more sensitive person. And I feel strong because I’m a survivor.” DON’T BE SHY, TELL PEOPLE WHAT YOU NEED.


While Joy was having her treatments, her husband began an affair. Not only is the cancer gone, so is he. Oh, what a joy!


Anonymous said...

Very clever and interesting!

Anonymous said...

This was great reading so
keep it coming.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget for another blog the following:
People sometimes say "I know how you feel"
Impossible and sounds disingenuous  so I say sometimes
"I know that I don't know how you feel" 

Anonymous said...

I think you blog is terrific. The chatty tone is serious and friendly at the same time. Not any easy thing to accomplish. Love the picture of the two of you!

Linda said...

Thank you for the thoughtful manner in which you discuss cancer and our interactions with friends and family diagnosed with cancer. When my family member was diagnosed with lung cancer, I picked up a reference book on cancer and educated myself. This is not to say that I always knew what to say, but it made me a more compassionate listener.

Cali said...

Thank you for sharing this