When People Say the Wrong Thing About Cancer

If you have early-stage cancer, you might be on the receiving end of insensitive remarks. Find the perfect comebacks here.  

By
Jen Singer

3. Comment: ”Your cancer was caught early, so you don’t need to worry about it.”
When Dianna Smoljan, 50, was diagnosed with an early melanoma three years ago, she thought, Wow, I’ve gotten really lucky twice. More than two decades earlier, the public relations consultant from Mokena, IL, had been diagnosed with cervical carcinoma in situ, a Stage 0 cancer that was removed in her gynecologist’s office.

Left untreated, melanoma becomes life threatening. In fact, Dianna’s dermatologist told her that her husband had saved her life by spotting the irregularity on her back early. “When all is quiet and you allow yourself to think, the what ifs overtake you,” she says. “Yet you feel bad for wanting someone to understand, because you know it could have been worse. Most people said things like, Oh, you had a mole removed. People tend to dismiss early-stage cancers as, It’s early. It’s out. You’ll be fine.” 

Comeback:  ”I was lucky to find it early, but I still need to sort through my feelings.” 
“Support is a double-edged sword,” says Dr. Greenstein. “When you have cancer, people will say the wrong things now and then. It’s part of our culture to minimize the bad stuff in life.”

She suggests sending an email to loved ones explaining how you feel and how you would like to be treated. Consider saying, It’s not important what you say. It’s what you say next. “It’s the discussion that makes a difference in how you’re going to feel afterward,” she says.

 

Published
May 2013