What Not to Say to Someone with Breast Cancer
Breast cancer can be a terribly stressful and trying time for people and the ones that love them most. Though family and friends want to be there for support, it can be tough to be in such a sensitive situation. Many patients, unfortunately, report that they see friends and family avoid them when times get tough during the cancer battle.
This might be because they feel unsure of how to act around someone suffering from such a devastating disease. But it's so important to maintain a good support system, so it’s important to understand how to comfort a sick loved one.
First, it's important to realize that there are some things you should never say to someone who has breast cancer. For someone who has never gone through such an experience, it's easy to overlook something that may stir up feelings of worry or shame in a breast cancer patient. We've put together a list of some things that should be avoided if you are caring for someone with breast cancer.
Don’t ask the same “How are you?”s that you do to everyone else
This is a really difficult one because most people start all their conversations with a standard "how are you?" greeting. However, for a person with cancer, they are sick and will more than likely be doing poorly. So rather than ask them how they are feeling (which is probably not too great), ask if they'd want to catch up instead. Invite them out to coffee or a happy hour, or your place, to let them update you about their life if they’d like.
"You don't look sick"
This might be a way for people to try and appease a person's perceived embarrassment about being ill. What may be intended as an uplifting compliment actually backfires with breast cancer because it may seem like you are belittling the gravity of their disease. Telling someone who really is very sick that they don't look sick may imply that you don't believe them or perhaps don't sympathize with the pain they are going through. Try to avoid any comment about their appearance that is related to their disease at all costs. Instead, comment on something unrelated - such as their choice of outfit, their makeup, or their hairstyle that day.
“You can do it! My [family member] survived breast cancer!”
You might be thinking that you can offer comfort to your loved one by reassuring them that you've seen others go through a similar experience and survive. However, sharing someone else's story to appease a breast cancer patient is not the right way to comfort them. There are many different kinds of breast cancer and prognosis can vary immensely depending on the stage and other qualities that the particular tumor has. Every person is different, and that needs to be respected in the face of this grave illness. Do not try to compare their disease to someone else's; rather, ask them to tell you about their individual diagnosis.
Read on for more things you shouldn't say to someone who is going through breast cancer.