14 things you should never say to a woman with breast cancer

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When I received my breast cancer diagnosis and made it public lots of people responded differently. For the most part I was very lucky and got tons of support, love and encouragement for those around me. As awkward as it is for a friend/family member/acquaintance to tell you that they breast cancer, it’s sometimes more awkward the response from people. The truth is, people aren’t expecting those words to come out of your mouth. I know that’s how most people felt when I told them. It’s shocking.  I have been extremely open about my experience with breast cancer. No matter how open I am, some people have just said some pretty awkward stuff to me. I have no doubt that they had the best intentions, it just came out wrong. Sometimes I just shrugged their comments off, other times I laughed them off because I didn’t know what else to do, and sometimes I just said “thanks” and moved on. Based on my experience here are 14 things never to say to a person who has breast cancer.

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My mom had breast cancer (she died) but she lived a great life for 5 years after her diagnosis. When people are diagnosed with breast cancer they don’t want to hear your personal connection to it. Everyone’s situation and experience with breast cancer is different. And even though your mom lived for 5 years, no one wants to hear that someone with their condition passed away. 

Losing your hair is no big deal. It’ll grow back.  Until you are forced to lose your hair because you are sick, you cannot speak to the pain it causes someone. When you are forced to lose your hair it is a big deal. Yes, it will grow back but no one knows how long you’ll be without it! Wearing a beanie, hat, wig, scarf or whatever else you choose to wear will cover your bald head, but nothing can replace how you feel with real hair.

You don’t look sick.  Another comment that I hated hearing. I didn’t look sick yet I was considered a sick person. I know I didn’t look sick but just because I didn’t look sick, didn’t mean that I had a massive tumor growing in my left breast. So, yeah. Better off, not to say anything. 

They are just boobs.   Just like my hair comment above, unless you are forced to lose your boobs, you have no idea how much they mean to you. Sure, they don’t have much of a purpose, BUT until you lose them you quickly realize that every piece of clothing made for women is made to include two breasts. Along with losing your breasts comes the physical scarring, and pain.

But, you are so young. You have a young family.  A few people said this comment to me and all I could do is smile and say “I know”. This comment is telling me something I already know. Trust me, this wasn’t my life plan. I didn’t choose cancer, it chose me at 33.

You are so lucky! You can get a free boob job!  Yes, my breast reconstruction surgery will be free, but the pain, and the type of surgery I will need is nowhere near a regular boob job. The surgery I will need will be tricky and extremely invasive so as much as it’ll be free, I ain’t lucky. I’ll be in pain just to recreate something that will try to resemble breasts.

I know exactly how you feel.  No, no you don’t. Unless you have had cancer, please don’t say this to a cancer patient. And comparing my situation to something that isn’t like it at all isn’t the same thing. So you don’t know how I feel at all.

My friend’s mom had breast cancer too. She got so sick.  I’m sorry to hear about your mom’s friend, but I only want to hear good stories. I’m trying to stay positive over here.

Are you going to have more kids?  I’m not sure that people realize that cancer permeates every single inch of your life once you get a diagnosis. This question was much harder for me to talk about at the beginning. Now that I’m one year post diagnosis, it’s a little bit easier but to be honest, fertility and cancer is scary. Why? Women do get pregnant after breast cancer and go on to be-ok, but the numbers are small. So, maybe stop and think before asking this question to any young person with cancer.

This is my friend Renee. She has/had breast cancer.    I would like to think that I’m more than my breast cancer. In fact, I was very adamant that cancer would not rule my world. Cancer will forever be a part of my life, but please don’t introduce me that way :)

What stage/type of cancer do you have?   This question is so awkward when you hear it. It’s one of those things that unless a person with breast cancer wants to share it, it should never be asked. I chose not to find out my stage and type of cancer until much later on in my treatment and still to this day I don’t share that information very often. I don’t think it means anything to anyone but my physicians who are treating me. 

Everything happens for a reason. You just may not know what that is now.   No, cancer does not happen for a specific reason. There is not reason why i should have ever endured and been tortured like I was. So no, never say this to me because it’s total B.S.

So you are in remission?  The truth is, I don’t know. At this moment I have no evidence of disease but I hate labels so just best to stay away from this question. Today, I’m here. That’s all that matters.

I could never deal with what you are dealing with.  Trust me, I never thought I would be dealing with this either. It’s not fun. But if g-d forbid this were to happen to you, you would deal with it because your other choice isn’t a good one. So if you ever find yourself in this situation, you will deal with it because that’s what you gotta do. It’s what I did.

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