Cancerspeak: the good, the bad, the you gotta be kidding me!

My latest (and perhaps last) essay about life with breast cancer went live this morning on Today/   Here’s how it starts:

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I was a wreck.  I tried my best to keep it together, to keep a muzzle on my hyperactive mouth, but inevitably some highly inappropriate comment would come tumbling out.

“Would you like paper or plastic?” a grocery clerk would ask.

“I have breast cancer,” I’d answer. “They found three masses and now they’re saying the masses are tumors and that I have to have a double mastectomy. I didn’t even know how to pronounce mastectomy until this happened! Oh … uh … paper would be great.”

After awhile, though, I didn’t have to worry so much about the inappropriate things I was saying because others were coming up with their own questionable cancerspeak.

Don’t get me wrong. My friends and family (and even a few kind strangers) have been there for me 100 percent — bringing by meals and flowers and homemade pies; taking me for walks and checking in to see how my 173 doctors’ appointments went that week.

It’s just that getting sideswiped by cancer — not to mention spending all of your time thinking and talking and waiting for test results about cancer — can make a body oversensitive.

Not to mention testy.

I certainly was the first time somebody made the mistake of wishing me well on my “journey.”

My journey? I wanted to yell at them. I’ve got breast cancer. I’m not going to Acapulco!

To read the rest, click here. To share your own stories of Breast Cancer Comments Gone Wild, send me a comment!


6 Responses to “Cancerspeak: the good, the bad, the you gotta be kidding me!”

  1. 1 Nancy Singelyn October 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Wonderful article. I too am part of the cancer club. (Wish I could cancel this memborship as easily as I did my health club one.) Had a mastectomy in March. Just finished chemo and slated to start radiation in a few weeks. Humor is the only way to deal with all the crap you go through. It is unbelievable the kind of comments you get.

    My favorite was going to Bible study, something that usually uplifts me and gets my mind off cancer. Nothing like comparing cancer to suffering from boils head to toe like Job to make you feel better. 🙂 That particular day the ladies spent half the time talking about how family members had died from cancer but had done wonderful things as a result of being diagnosed and wasn’t it wonderful that God had a plan for them. I finally said, I think God has a plan for all of us. It doesn’t necessarily result in me dying to achieve mine.

    Keep writing…don’t let the negative comments get you down. You are making a lot of people feeel better.


  2. 2 Liza October 28, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Please don’t stop writing your essays!! They’re really helping me get through treatment!! I look forward to reading them, as you write so eloquently what I (and I’m sure many, many others) are thinking and feeling. They bring a smile to my face and giggles to my lips.

    My ‘favorite’ comment from very well-meaning people is ‘You look great!’ – inside I’m thinking, Great? I have to wear this dumb hat, I have no eyebrows, no eyelashes, and one expander is hanging down to my waist while the other is lodged up near my collarbone – this is great?

    I wish you the best of luck, minimal side effects, and a long and happy life!

  3. 3 Joe October 29, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    I’ve noticed many people have us cancer warriors dead & buried already ,from their stares & ignorant comments,such as all the funerals they went to

  4. 4 Kristi October 31, 2011 at 9:55 am

    I loved the article…best yet. It’s funny, but I had a foot in mouth moment, too and I still feel bad about it. We were doing a fundraiser for a skydiver friend of mine. Her kid has Lukehemia. We were talking and I casually mentioned that my good friend Clyde had Lukehemia. I knew the big sized foot went right in big and I didn’t say anything else. But of course, she asked me if he’s still alive and I had to tell her no. I felt bad, so I just tried to spin it. I told her that this happened over 20 years ago at a time period when you got cancer, that meant death. Now, things are different and medical advances are so much better. People are living and surviving more and more. I was just greatful that they told him he wouldn’t make it to his sixth birthday and he made it to his 19th.

    Also, I relate this to countless people that constantly ask, “So when are you going to have kids?” I think it’s rude to ask that because you don’t know if the couple have been trying to have kids and unsuccessfully or that they just found out that they can’t have kids. I always wanted to reply to someone that asked me that during my 9 years of marriage, “We aren’t planning to have kids because I’m baren (spelling?). But thanks for bringing that painful memory up.” When in reality, I just didn’t want to have kids.

  5. 5 Francisco October 31, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Hi, i just happened to stumble on this story as i was bored going through “da web”. My wife passed away jan 18 2011 at 39yrs old after suffering from bc 10 long years. Everything that you say in this article is so very very true.
    All the beautiful women out there that have this illness, never, ever give up, you live your life to the fullest every day!!
    thanks for posting!!

  6. 6 Tory November 2, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    Thanks for your article 🙂 I had to laugh out loud about about your distain for the word “journey”. I use the term sometimes, but I feel like yelling from the rooftop that the damn journey is like our parents trip to school- up hill, both ways, in the snow, barefoot,

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What’s my story?

I'm a former freelance writer, now gainfully employed at Fred Hutch (views and f-bombs all my own).

I write about health and health care; cancer research and the cancer experience; dating, lifestyle and singles issues and lots of other stuff including humor and fiction and a few songs here and there.

Book info below.

Looking for my breast cancer blog? Go to doublewhammied

Where are my books?

How to Date in a Post-Dating World A dating manual for the modern, mangled single.

Single State of the Union
Single women speak out on life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Fifty Shades of Brains
Sex. Zombies. Really annoying present tense narration.

Follow me on Twitter!

October 2011

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