Friday, January 13, 2006

what (not) to say

It's not easy to know how to respond when someone tells you they have breast cancer, but for goodness' sake, say something. As hard as it, is, and as awkward as you might feel, it is worse to say nothing than to mutter a few heartfelt words.

I'm not sitting in judgment here. I have missed several opportunities in the past to speak up when people I care about have been in difficulty. It feels so hard to find the right words. Trust me, though, if you don't acknowledge the elephant at the table, it just gets bigger.

"I'm sorry" is a perfectly acceptable thing to say. So is "that really sucks."

Some of the most meaningful things people have said to me:

"This is a campaign and we're going to win it."

"If I know anyone strong enought to deal with this, it's you."

"I know your treatment will be succesful. You're a tough customer."

From a breast cancer survivor: "The majority of us will live long enough to die of something else."

Some more do's and don't's:

Do offer to help - if you mean it and you can.

If you want to tell me a story about your friend/cousin/neighbour who had breast cancer, think ahead for a second. How does the story end? Unless your friend is now healthy and cancer free, I don't want to hear it.

Do ask me how I am but don't act dubious if I say that I'm fine. At that particular moment, I might be. Or I might just be trying really hard to keep it together. Either way, let me take the lead on whether or not I want to pour out my heart.

I've also noticed that there seems to be a tendancy, in my social circle anyway, to say it with wine. This meets with my unqualified approval.

A word about God:

Although I'm a committed agnostic, I'm quite happy to hear that you are including me in your prayers. I'll take all the good thoughts I can, in whatever form.

Don't, however, tell me that this is all part of God's plan for me. Because if I believed in God and thought He'd planned this for me, I'd be pretty pissed off at Him right about now.


mikeit said...


I randomly look at blogs on occasion and hit on yours.

I can't imagine dealing with what you have to face, and although I don't know you, I want you to know I'll think postive thoughts in your direction.

Since you don't mind, I'll say a prayer for you as well.

I'm not agnostic, but I get pissed off at God all the time - especially when bad things happen to good people.

Cathy said...

Hey Laurie,
I'm so happy that you're logging and that I can travel along with you on this journey. Here's to red wine, friends, family, dogs, and everything else that gets us through the bad times!
Love, Cathy

Chris said...

Hi Laurie,

The problem with listing what should be said is that people take all the good ones. Anyone who comes after sounds insincere.

So at the risk of sounding insincere, let me say, Laurie, I've known you a long time. I know that you're very strong, very grounded and that your sense of humour will carry you through tougher crises than these.

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog and in my other comment, I wrote that I didn't know your beliefs...and now I do. I just want to say that if anyone is telling you or has told you in the past that "God is trying to teach you something" then that person knows very little about God.(Not trying to be judgemental, it just frustrates me when people say those kinds of things, because I don't believe God works that way.). God doesn't give people cancer; an imperfect world takes care of that. What God can give is strength in your fight and even if you don't believe in him, I do and will be praying that for you.