It’s Just Breast Cancer

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Most of us want to bring comfort to those in pain, to those who are terrified, to those who are shell-shocked by a horrible diagnosis.

None of us want to be the person that says the awful thing, the foot-in-the-mouth thing, or the brings more discomfort thing.

It's Just Breast Cancer

I’m here to help!

What Was Said That Brought Me Immense Comfort

* I love you. You are loved.

* What do you need from me? How can I help?

* I’m praying and I’ll ask others to pray.

* I’m sorry.

* I’m listening.

* I support you and will do anything I can to help.

What Was Said That Made Me Feel Worse

* Women don’t die from breast cancer anymore, do they?

* X, Y or Z caused your cancer. Stay away from those things now.

* Thank goodness it’s just breast cancer.

* Chemo is big business. Be careful.

* I had breast cancer too.  It was the worst thing I’ve ever gone through. ~rest of horrifying details here~

* Jokes aren’t appropriate.

Um, if jokes aren’t appropriate, then color me Inappropriate Cancer Girl.

There’s a cape for that, I’m sure.

I know that it’s tough to know how to respond to something so big that it leaves us speechless, well almost speechless. 

When in doubt, take something from the top list. 

There will be time to talk, time for details, time for everything to get hashed out, but in the beginning, keeping it simple is sublime for those receiving your words and your love.

When I was offered a well-meaning, but off the mark, piece of advice, it came from those I knew who loved me, so understanding they meant well was a no-brainer.

Yet, some of the words still pierced my tender, newly-diagnosed heart and made me feel worse.

The worst of what has been said to me, the worst I had to hear, was the audible relief from a few that it’s just breast cancer.

WHEW!  What a relief!

The takeaway, of course, was that most women survive this disease. 

Statistically, that is true.  Halleluriah!  < Not factious. Truly amazing. Yet, not helping in the newest of days.

If you’re standing in my place, if you’re contemplating the idea of filling your body with toxic drugs when your entire life has been with an eye on avoiding toxins, if you’re living through the side-effects of those caustic chemicals, if you’re considering which treatments give you the best survival rates, as in the idea to live through and after treatment for as long as humanly possible, as in to keep breathing and going about your life, if you’re being cut open by surgeons repeatedly, then having to recover from those surgeries, if parts of your beloved body may be taken from you, if you’re having to watch those you love suffer helplessly while you suffer the unimaginable, if you have to walk through the maze of what is now called medical insurance, if you feel as if you don’t know your body anymore, if you understand that nothing from this moment forward will ever be the same…you would grasp the depth of the uncertainty that faces each and every breast cancer patient and you would never ever utter the words, it’s just breast cancer, even if you think them encouraging.

It is not just breast cancer, mah babies.

It is breast cancer and it’s scary as hell, no matter what your diagnosis.

My heart is grateful and open to those who stumble in these moments, because I, too, have stumbled.

Let us err on the side of fewer words in the beginning.

Words that convey our sadness and the heaviness of the moment, without mucking it up with too much of anything else.

Let us join our hearts together in our support and love for one another.

Everything else will come in its own time.

By the way, if you feel you see yourself in any of the “worse” category, STOP IT! don’t facepalm yourself too hard, know we’ve all been there, myself included.



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  1. I am sorry you are going through this. I hope that knowing there are so many of us pushing our good thoughts and prayers your way helps. Also, please know I am sharing this post on face book. What you have said here is what we all need to know when someone we care about gets any kind of big bad news. Hang in there Kid.
    We are all rooting for you.

    • Thanks, Bob. I have been the recipient of so many prayers and good thoughts and love. I don’t take that for granted for one moment. I thank you for yours.

  2. Gah sometimes people just suck. I know they mean well and I know myself can sometimes but awkward and say the wrong thing but still it sucks that words can be damaging. Keep kicking cancers butt!!! Praying!

    • While its true that some things said to me have squinched my brain (ha!), I know that most folks want to offer calm and peace. Delivery, people! This is a hard situation filled with awkward uncomfortable moments and sometimes the best thing to say is the greatest go-to ever: I love you. Thanks for the prayers, Alicia.

  3. This is very helpful, thank you. I know that I often don’t know what to say, so I either say something unfeeling or I avoid the person / the situation and that doesn’t help either. The most honest thing I said to a friend of mine after the loss of her husband was, “I don’t know what to say,” and I didn’t. She let me know what she needed and I did my best to be there for her.

    • Oh, Christina…this made me tear up. How often do we withdraw from the uncomfortable because we don’t know what the hell to say, to do? Your experience is helpful in that you offered an honest “I don’t know what to say.” Those of us on my end appreciate the hardness of that statement and the love behind it. Good for you.

      The best thing a friend said to me after learning of my diagnosis was this: I don’t know what to say, so I’ll say I love you. A lot.

      Still has the power to make me cry. Honest. Confused. Hurt. Powerful.

  4. “Um, if jokes aren’t appropriate, then color me Inappropriate Cancer Girl. There’s a cape for that, I’m sure.”

    This made me smile. Picturing a big ICG in a pink superman symbol. I have not been through Cancer, but like everyone, there’s other things…and you know what, it is ALWAYS appropriate to joke if you’re the one IN IT, whatever it is. Other people can deal (unless they’re in it too, or have someone near and dear in it and are asking you to stop). Joking can help….so if it helps, do it.

    Prayers for you through this time…hope you find whatever it is you need to get through in abundance.

    • ICG! lol! I try to be aware of others and not be insensitive, especially if they have someone in the fight, but for the most part there’s gonna be jokes. Thank you for the prayers, Gale.

    • Your Bartender says

      I went through breast cancer therapy recently. I wore my bald head like a crown, wore tight shirts flaunting my double mastectomy, showed up for every chemo and radiation appt, and still went to work every day in the service business. What got me through it? A sense of humor, and an out-there appearance that demanded people ask questions. Cancer sucks. But so do a lot of other problems out there that I wouldn’t want to tackle instead.
      It is what it is. Cancer sucks. Cancer treatment reeeeaaally sucks. But it is the hand I was dealt, despite being otherwise healthy, and fit. My friends were amazing, and helpful. And people saw my bald head and asked questions. And that is great. Awareness is king.
      I used to tell men, “When women look at me, their automatic reaction is to touch their breasts. Can you say the same?” 🙂

  5. ilirianwanderer says


    Stay strong.

    Our prayers are with you…

  6. This is so helpful. Everything you said here should be common knowledge. Your post is a great start toward that end. And you are loved… all of us who come here to learn and to laugh and to wish we could be right there in one giant group-hug to get you through it all.
    You will beat this. I know it!

  7. Thanks SO much for sharing this! We are all so quick to speak when in reality we should just BE there and listen. Thanks for this post to make us more aware!

  8. I’m praying and will ask others to pray, Ms. Inappropriate Cancer Girl.


  9. Kaye Swain says

    Oh Patti, I saw the link at Lisa’s facebook page. I’m so sorry to hear about this. Please know I am praying for you!


  10. thanks for this. I honestly never know what to say, but love that less words are better. Sometimes physically being there and loving through action is the best.


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