home
RSS
Breast cancer: Etiquette
October 15th, 2010
08:48 AM ET

Breast cancer: Etiquette

This week Amanda Enayati will share the milestones of a life-altering journey that began the day she learned she had late-stage breast cancer more than three years ago.

Today let’s discuss cancer etiquette. I would call it serious illness etiquette but I thought I would specialize since cancer is what I know and, who knows, maybe the rules are different from disease to disease. (And yes, every one of the following has happened to me at some point.)

Finding out someone has cancer is awful. It is a cruel disease, which will strike one out of every two Americans. Hearing the bad news is shocking and devastating but it’s probably more shocking and devastating for the cancer victim than it is for you.

So pull yourself together.

You can be authentic, show a little emotion, maybe even shed a tear but for the love of God don’t make it about you and certainly don’t put the cancer patient in the position of having to console you as you sob, beat your chest and yell “Why? Why, God?’ up at the heavens.

Rein yourself in for a minute or two, and let the sick person set the tone. Maybe she wants you to hold her hand and cry with her. Maybe she just wants you to sit and listen. Or maybe she wants you to list the 101 reasons she will survive. Her call. Not yours.

If you don’t know what to say, don’t worry. Any variation of “I’m really sorry,” “I love you,” “My prayers/thoughts are with you” is perfectly okay.

If you find out someone has cancer from someone else, do not call her, burst into tears and sob: “Why do all the good ones have to die?” Yes, it’s true that all the good ones have to die. But all the bad ones have to die too. We all die sometime. Besides, it’s probably not okay to pronounce a living person, who is sitting there on the other end of the phone line, dead from something that they are more than likely hoping to beat (even if they don’t admit it).

Which leads me to my next point, and that is that the cancer patient may or may not die from that particular cancer. There are lots of folks who survive cancer—both early and late-stage—and never have a recurrence, even when the doctors anticipated a high probability that they would. I have read accounts of people who were given weeks and days to live—people who are still living decades later. Recovery is a function of many things and one of them is grace, something that none of us can ever begin to predict or quantify.

Next rule: Don’t look up the odds. Don’t point out the odds. Don’t confirm the cancer patient’s worst nightmares.

What’s that? You’re just being “realistic?” Well, shove the realism up your unmentionable bits and keep it there.

Don’t give anyone struggling with cancer a moniker that contains the word ‘cancer’ in it. Someone I love kept calling me Cancer Girl, like I was a superhero or something. Even in the throes of dealing with it, I didn’t want to hear the word cancer, much less have it associated with me as a nickname, and so I wanted to punch him in the nethers each and every single time he uttered the words. (But I didn’t. I didn’t say a word. I am now, though. Don’t do it.)

Say you’re an acquaintance of someone who’s dealing with cancer, make sure that every time you run into her, your face doesn’t crumple into a look of sorrow, your eyebrows knit together over a pair of puppy-dog eyes as you whine: “How are youuuuu?” in a soap opera voice. She probably was fine until the moment she laid eyes on you and now you’ve ruined the rest of her day with your faux pity.

On the other hand, when the patient is going through treatment, don’t ever tell her she looks bald, skinny, bloated, ashy, gray, red, sickly, even if it’s true. Lie if you need to. Tell her that she’s glowing, beautiful, vibrant, alive. (All of these rules apply to both men and women, by the way.)

One day when I was in the middle of chemo, my daughter’s nursery school teacher said to me: “Aren’t you supposed to be looking worse during chemo? How do you get more beautiful every day?” I swear I wanted to leave my husband right then and there, and marry this woman. I will adore her for life, not because of some compliment that more than likely wasn’t true, but because of her generosity of spirit and the gift of hope that she gave me through a few simple words uttered with pure intentions.

Listen. This is particularly important. When the person is in remission, say, one or two years out from treatment, hell, even six months out from treatment, don’t keep bringing up cancer every time you see them. Say you happen to run into the person in a social situation where everyone’s talking about the weather or politics or those crazy celebrities and their nutty antics, please please please don’t say anything like:

Your skin looks SO great, not like all the other times I’ve seen you when you looked so sick and kind of yellow, you know? Maybe even almost green. Like you weren’t doing so well. But now your skin looks like a healthy person’s skin. Even your hair. Hey, how often do you go to the oncologist? When is your next appointment? How are you feeeeeling?”

Because I promise you the person, no matter how polite she’s being, isn’t taking it well. If she wanted to bring it up, she would have. Because, with a few exceptions we can discuss at some point, she has either already moved on or is trying to move on. She’s hoping to forget the horrors she endured. She doesn’t want to relive it. She certainly doesn’t want to be reminded of it in a social situation. And so more than likely, she wants to take your smug little face and do violent things to it. Even if her face is a perfectly arranged mask of social civility.

Any questions?

Amanda Enayati’s work has appeared in Salon, the Washington Post, Detroit News, and "Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora" (University of Arkansas Press). You can follow her on Twitter @AmandaEnayati or her daily blog, practicalmagicforbeginners.com.

Post by:
Filed under: Cancer

soundoff (1,613 Responses)
  1. LrbsEncox

    levitra prescription cost http://uslevitraanna.com/ viagra levitra cialis apcalis regalis zenegra

    April 24, 2021 at 13:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. FbsfEncox

    price pro pharmacy canada http://uspharmus.com/ – online pharmacy india canadian pharmaceuticals

    April 24, 2021 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. rv repair videos

    Good day! I just would like to give you a big thumbs up for the excellent information you've got here on this post. I will be returning to your site for more soon.

    http://ww31.connexions-direct.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-orange-county-california/

    April 24, 2021 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. RV Generator Near Me

    http://cinca.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=davidportilla.com/bancoomeva-amii/amii-header/

    April 24, 2021 at 20:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. LhdvZisse

    buy some cialis https://asciled.com/ female cialis

    April 25, 2021 at 12:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. LhdvZisse

    cialis insurance coverage https://asciled.com/ – viagra • cialis • does generic cialis work

    April 25, 2021 at 13:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. alprostadil cream cost

    edex (alprostadil) https://alprostadildrugs.com/ alprostadil generic prices

    April 25, 2021 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Judi Online

    Hello, every time i used to check website posts here early in the dawn, because i enjoy to gain knowledge
    of more and more.

    April 26, 2021 at 06:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. RfvbZisse

    cialis no prescription needed https://cileve.com/ cialis

    April 26, 2021 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. plaquenil sleep

    erectile mastery exercises https://plaquenilx.com/ best erectile dysfunction pills online

    April 27, 2021 at 02:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. FbsfEncox

    prescription pricing https://uspharmus.com/ – fda approved canadian online pharmacies online drugs

    April 27, 2021 at 04:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. BbdfMile

    viagra pictures https://gensitecil.com/ alcohol and viagra

    April 27, 2021 at 17:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. houses for sale bayview id

    http://www.skewlbustour.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.meganleary.com

    April 27, 2021 at 21:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. real estate for sale rathdrum id

    http://sp-klub.ru/go.php?http://meganleary.com

    April 27, 2021 at 21:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. getting viagra from canada with no prescription

    order generic viagra online canada https://canadaviagrastore.com/ viagra canada over the counter

    April 27, 2021 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. JbsdEncox

    Female Viagra https://onlinecanda21.com/ best online canadian pharmacy

    April 28, 2021 at 09:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. GvdbCrulk

    tadalafil 20 mg price http://boxtadafil.com/ can a person buy tadalafil

    April 29, 2021 at 00:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. JbsdEncox

    Strattera https://onlinecanda21.com/ Nexium

    April 29, 2021 at 02:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. AbdgEncox

    Frumil https://canadianeve21.com/ – canada drugs direct Hyzaar

    April 29, 2021 at 11:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. ed over the counter cvs

    erectile pump youtube https://canadaerectiledysfunctionpills.com/ erectile amazon

    April 30, 2021 at 04:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. RfvbZisse

    cialis in manitoba http://cileve.com/ generic cialis black

    April 30, 2021 at 10:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. BbdfMile

    how long does it take for viagra to work https://gensitecil.com/ viagra government funded

    April 30, 2021 at 22:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. LrbsEncox

    how long before levitra works walgreens levitra price what works better viagra or levitra

    May 1, 2021 at 05:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. GvdbCrulk

    tadalafil cheapest price http://boxtadafil.com/ tadalafil tablets usp 20 mg

    May 1, 2021 at 08:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. LrbsEncox

    levitra expired https://uslevitraanna.com/ generic for levitra

    May 2, 2021 at 01:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. AbdgEncox

    Strattera http://canadianeve21.com/ – Cialis Nitroglycerin

    May 2, 2021 at 05:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. buy generic cialis without prescription canadian pharmacy

    canadian viagra cialis https://canadacialisstore.com/ canadian generic cialis 20mg

    May 2, 2021 at 09:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. LhdvZisse

    viagra cialis levitra trial pack http://asciled.com/ buy original cialis

    May 2, 2021 at 10:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. LhdvZisse

    arghentina cialis http://asciled.com/ – cialis mit paypal bezahlen dapoxetine and cialis

    May 2, 2021 at 12:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. FbsfEncox

    northwest pharmaceuticals canada https://uspharmus.com/ Januvia

    May 2, 2021 at 17:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. avana

    buy avana online avanafil dose

    May 3, 2021 at 01:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. AnooEncox

    monoxyde d'azote et viagra https://llviagra.com/ viagra keine potenzprobleme

    May 3, 2021 at 07:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. LebnEncox

    Provera https://xlnpharmacy.com/ legit pharmacy websites

    May 4, 2021 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. marketing membership

    I love it when people come together and share thoughts. Great website, stick with it!

    https://clients1.google.com.pg/url?sa=i&rct=j&url=https://masteringthemanwithin.com

    May 4, 2021 at 15:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. RV Countertops Near Me

    You need to take part in a contest for one of the greatest websites on the net. I'm going to highly recommend this site!

    https://securitystronghold.com/gates/link/0/1/?url=https://ocrv.info

    May 4, 2021 at 15:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Phoenix Optometrist

    You are so interesting! I do not believe I've truly read through anything like that before. So great to find somebody with some unique thoughts on this topic. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This site is something that is needed on the web, someone with a little originality!

    http://middeldatabasen.dk/DeepLinker.asp?url=https://bettersightovernight.com

    May 4, 2021 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Eye Appointments Near Me

    It’s hard to come by knowledgeable people about this subject, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

    https://www.riderhq.com/emails/608677/link/7339912?ti=7339912-axup7jgyljy9bf9xgpdogllhoew&h=http3A2F2Feyedoctorphoenixaz.com

    May 4, 2021 at 16:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. RebfZisse

    cialis 20mg aus usa http://rcialisgl.com/ generic cialis uk

    May 4, 2021 at 18:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. RV Entertainment System Los Angeles

    http://nowonnews.net/?wptouch_switch=mobile&redirect=http3A2F2Focrv.us

    May 4, 2021 at 19:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. online business group

    You are so interesting! I do not believe I've read through something like that before. So nice to discover someone with original thoughts on this subject. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This site is one thing that's needed on the web, someone with a bit of originality!

    https://map.google.com.pr/url?q=https3A2F2Fmastermindofmen.com&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNGaY_nlK9ozc51fqwjiVdMaYZL7rg

    May 4, 2021 at 19:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. isuzu box truck conversion

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who has been doing a little research on this. And he actually ordered me lunch simply because I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to talk about this subject here on your blog.

    http://www.freegame.jp/search/rank.cgi?mode=link&id=80&url=https://ocrvfleetservices.com

    May 4, 2021 at 19:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. international box truck

    http://www.first-united.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.ocrvfleetservices.com

    May 4, 2021 at 20:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. commercial truck body shop near me

    Greetings, I believe your web site might be having web browser compatibility issues. Whenever I look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine however when opening in I.E., it's got some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to give you a quick heads up! Besides that, great website!

    https://clients1.google.com.pr/url?q=https3A2F2Ffleetservicesocrv.com&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNGaY_nlK9ozc51fqwjiVdMaYZL7rg

    May 4, 2021 at 20:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Orthokeratology Near Me

    http://www.padelargonos.com/libro/go.php?url=https://arizonasvision.com

    May 5, 2021 at 00:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. truck trailer tire repair

    https://www.alleskostenlos.ch/outgoing/3346-dfc33.htm?to=https3A2F2Fsprintervanrepairshop.com

    May 5, 2021 at 00:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. game aika online

    https://google.ws/url?sa=t&rct=j&url=https3A2F2Faikareborn.com&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNGaY_nlK9ozc51fqwjiVdMaYZL7rg

    May 5, 2021 at 01:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. priligy

    buy avanafil usa buy priligy canada

    May 5, 2021 at 01:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. truck rear end repair

    This is a good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere. Brief but very accurate info… Thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!

    https://clients1.google.by/url?q=j&source=web&rct=j&url=https3A2F2Ffleetservicerepairshop.com&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNGaY_nlK9ozc51fqwjiVdMaYZL7rg

    May 5, 2021 at 03:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. RV Windows Near Me

    https://images.google.rw/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https3A2F2Focrv.vip&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNGaY_nlK9ozc51fqwjiVdMaYZL7rg

    May 5, 2021 at 04:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. RV Technician Los Angeles

    https://images.google.bi/url?sa=t&rct=j&url=https3A2F2Focrv.guru&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNGaY_nlK9ozc51fqwjiVdMaYZL7rg

    May 5, 2021 at 05:33 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32

Leave a Reply to RfvbZisse


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

Recent Comments
Archive
October 2010
M T W T F S S
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
  • An error has occurred, which probably means the feed is down. Try again later.