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Readers Respond: When faced with rude or insensitive comments about breast cancer:

Responses: 10


Updated February 12, 2009

If you are in treatment for breast cancer, you might be feeling somewhat fragile or sensitive on the topic. Even during a time like this, you may get insensitive questions and remarks from friends, family, and strangers. I even got embarrassing questions from women in my support group! Having a snappy comeback prepared can help.

How long do You have to live?

Seeing as, except for the cancer I'm in excellent health I'll probably outlast you.
—Guest Karen

With friends like this...

I had just been diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer and was making phone calls to family and friends to let them know. It was very difficult to say the words "I have breast cancer" over and over again. During a call to a close friend, her response to my news was "Are you going to start eating better now?" I was flabbergasted and had no idea how to respond. I do need to lose some weight but I'm NOT extremely overweight. I'm glad to report that I'm a 4-1/2 year breast cancer survivor today, but I am no longer close to my supposed friend. I never forgot her unkind remark. And of everyone I called during those first days of shock after the diagnosis, she is the only person who made me feel that I was somehow to blame for having cancer. With friends like this...

zinger management

Doctors must be taught bedside manners so why would you assume someone outside of medicine knows how to formulate "concerned" questions? These blurts, as you describe them, do not have much forethought but if you can try to see things from the other persons angle, i.e. "I had a friend...died", may be turned around not as a zinger but as "are you worried I am going to die too?" or "Your cancer...my life" may be a cry for help from a care giver who is watching the health of a loved one deteriorate and is in shock at the change this has made to both of your relationships and future. I still believe that people have good intent, but poorly word their concerns about life threatening diseases since they are ignorant but try to see them as someone who is also suffering a loss; a loss of time with you, a loss of ability to share your experience to the depth you have. So, try a little forgiveness and try to figure out what is the loved one or concerned friend clumsily trying to say, badly.
—Guest ignorant

So, are you cured?

After I was done with chemo and a double mastectomy people wanted me to be done with it and they ask "So, are you cured?" I know they want to hear "yes" so they will feel better. I believe that even when they tell you NED (No Evidence of Progression), you fight this battle for the rest of your life!
—Guest holligoog

what to do with my ex-boyfriend

I had my ex-boyfriend tell me that I was over exaggerating when I came home from radiation treatments and would want to lay in bed for a couple hours. He thought I could fight cancer by eating broccoli and drinking vodka. Some people are very insensitive and will never understand. - Erin Pondo

My friend?

My nipple has been bleeding for over a week, and after two mammograms and an ultrasound, I've been scheduled for a ductogram. When I shared this with a "man" who has wanted to date me for a couple years, he said, "Can I play with them before they're gone?" I wish I'd had more time to think of something to say. All I came up with was, "Tell me you didn't just say that." To my astonishment, he actually tried to defend his ignorant remark. Needless to say, I have cut him from my list of "friends."
—Guest GirlGolfer

Nasty Phd and MD director

I went thru bilateral Mastectomy, 8 treatments of chemo and 35 treatments of radiation. During radiation I worked part time. At my review I got a commendable review with a 4% raise but they said I would only get half that,which was 2% as I worked only half the year.Also said they wouldn't be training me any more and they cut my hours to 70% from 100% when I went full time. They were preparing to bury me. I was on FMLA leave not in Hawaii. I say what goes around comes around!
—Guest Getting ready to bury me!

If you can't shave with them!

I have a snappy comeback when people say rude things about my bald head. "I don't have to shave anywhere on my body for the entire summer and that includes my legs,can you top that?"
—Guest minimoke


I only had one co-worker say something odd to me during this and did the silent stare back at her. It works wonders. She never said anything to me about it again, but did bring me a pink ribbon shirt a couple weeks later. I guess that was her way of making it up to me.

Lucky me

Once a week for a year I left work an hour early so I could drive myself to the cancer center to take my treatment. One day as I was getting ready to leave work a co-worker told me how lucky I was because I got to leave work early.

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