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Say This, Not That, When Talking Breast Cancer

By February 4, 2013

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Women TalkingEver heard of Cancer Etiquette? It encompasses a way of talking, acting, using body language, and any other method of communication with a cancer patient. In proper breast cancer etiquette, you always keep yourself in the background and the patient in focus. There are Things To Say and Things Not To Say to a cancer patient.

So if you've had a friend or loved one or even a passing acquaintance recently diagnosed with breast cancer, you may be wondering how to act or what to say. It's a natural impulse to offer your support and it is equally natural to be curious about the details of her diagnosis. But not all our impulses are good.

Your role is to listen respectfully. You look her in the eye - not at her chest - and you keep it real! Don't get right into pity talk and if she isn't up to acting heroic, please don't try to cheer her on to victory. Let her (or him!) express how they are feeling - and don't judge them - and tune in. Cancer is a rollercoaster of emotions, decisions, side effects, and unpleasant adjustments. Everybody progressed through the emotional stages differently and the same goes for treatments - there is no "one way" to get through it all.

Hold your tongue until you understand what the other person is feeling, or what they may be dealing with. Do not pry. Do be respectful. Do not offer your own horror story - ever! - or the sad tale of someone else who has dealt with cancer. Still stumped for words to use? Here's my take on 8 Things Not To Say to someone with breast cancer - and Good Things To Say instead.

For more advice on awkward moments, try:  What Not to Say About Health Issues - Tips for Talking to Friends and Family

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February 27, 2013 at 10:58 am
(1) Spookiesmom says:

A “friend” keeps telling me I look good. What did I look like before cancer? Chopped dog food?

February 27, 2013 at 5:46 pm
(2) Maureen says:

Wish I had a dollar for every time I heard that one. And it was usually said with such surprise. But, they were trying to be nice (I think).

February 27, 2013 at 11:06 pm
(3) Flossie says:

Don’t say “you have the good kind of cancer” or “lucky you, you’ll be permanently perky”

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