The Conversation Not to Have With a Cancer Patient
Since my breast cancer diagnosis, dozens of people have shared their death-by-cancer stories with me.
It is such a bizarre phenomen.
I was diagnosed with a disease that kills people. I know this. I think about it daily. Being reminded every time I go out in public is tough for me. But alas, it happens. A lot.
It’s hard for me to hear about
- Your uncle who died from prostate cancer
- Your mom who fought breast cancer for 10 years before it took her life
- Your best friend from college whom you watched wither away at age 20
- Your nephew’s sister’s cousin’s friend who left 5 kids and a husband behind when she “lost her battle”
It takes me about .5 seconds after waking up in the morning to remember where I am and what cancer has done to my body. Stories of others’ grief are not helpful. In fact, what they do is flip this whole thing upside down and put me in the position of comforter. Right now, I just don’t have it in me to be that person. (Come back next year at this time, and I might be able to give you a pep talk.)
What I do want to hear is your success stories.
Tell me about
- Your mom who beat cancer 20 years ago and is around to see her grandsons play football
- Your niece who just made it to the 5-year milestone
- Your brother who had a tumor removed in high school and went on to become an engineer
- Your personal experience of overcoming breast (or any other type) of cancer
I realize the word CANCER makes people feel weird and uncomfortable. And when something makes people feel weird and uncomfortable they sometimes say things they wouldn’t otherwise say. For the most part, I am able to extend grace and understanding when people say things I don’t want to hear. I try to remind myself that before cancer entered my life it weirded me out too, and I certainly said more than one dumb thing to someone without even realizing it.
If you are thinking “Oh crap, I did this to Kim.” Please don’t. There’s a good chance I don’t even remember our specific conversation, because, like I said, it happens all the time.
Instead, please accept these words as a teaching moment from someone who was forced against her will onto the other side.
Cancer has changed my life for sure, and I am happy to talk about it with you. I just don’t want to talk about all the people who died.
Plus, I am equally happy to skirt the cancer topic altogether and talk about the weather or the latest ISU game.
Speaking of ISU…Sweet 16! Go State!