Breast Cancer Awareness Month: What to Say (or Not Say) #1

Because I’m seeing so much pink this week, I find myself thinking about all things related to FBC (f-bomb breast cancer). It’s amazing how a few (million) pink ribbons reactivate the memory of experiences (and f-bombs!).

One of the things that comes to mind (that you dear readers discuss with me frequently!) is:

What to say or WTF not to say to someone with FBC.

Here’s the thing: it’s hard to be a friend to someone who has FBC. It just is. I know. I really do. I can’t tell you the number of times people have asked me: What can I do? How should I be? What should I say?

So, I thought that for the next few days I’ll share some things that were said to me when I was sick that felt a little, well, cloudy…and offer a more Silver Lined way to respond.

I’d love your thoughts. What did you hear when you were sick and what would you like to have heard?

Leave a comment


  1. Anne says

    Hi Hollye,

    A friend was just diagnosed with colon cancer, and I honestly had to stop and think about what to say and what to do to help her – and I had to come back to this series you posted just to remind myself of all those well-intentioned things people (including this particular friend) said to me when I was first diagnosed with FBC. I hope to take all the good things people said and did for me and do the same for my friend. Her experience won't be the same as mine, her journey isn't the same as mine, but it breaks my heart that she has to go through this 'adventure'.

    Thanks for posting these reminders, I was so glad I could read them again and remember what I need to do to help her.


    • says

      Dear Anne,
      Thanks so much for your note. Great to hear from you, but I'm just sorry that it took a friend's diagnosis to reconnect. Sending all of my very best wishes to you and your friend as you are both on the journey together.
      Take good care!

  2. Ella says

    I am lucky, I do not have, nor have had cancer. I just want to say that I sincerely appreciate your silver lining statements – as they are very helpful for those of us who know someone who has cancer. I believe it can also apply to any unfortunate circumstance a family may have to endure. Let's not just offer an empty plate of insincere aid, but rather a full promise of true loving help instead. Thank you for this little article. To those who posted above, thank you too for input.

    • says

      Thank you so much for your kind and eloquent note, Ella. I really appreciate it! Thank you also for being part of this wonderful community. My philosophy is that "we are all recovering from something" and to be able to share inspiration with one another is a great and wonderful gift. Thank you again, Ella!

  3. CCH says

    I have so many that come to mind. 🙂

    I heard SEVERAL times – It is just hair, it will grow back. What I would have liked to hear is – I am sorry you are dealing with this. I am here for you!

    Or how about people that compare cancer and going through chemo to having a baby. What I heard – I know how you feel, when I was pregnant, blah, blah – What I would have liked to here is – I am sorry you are going through this – it is unfair!

  4. says

    Cloud: "Everything's going to be fine. You'll be back to normal soon enough."
    SL: "Cancer sucks, but no matter what you have to go through, you're strong and you can do it. We're here to stand by you no matter what."

    I don't know if it's just me, but people glossing over the word cancer and the fear of all it entails is frustrating. It's okay to say that cancer sucks, and it's far more helpful to show care in honesty than to offer platitudes.

    • Dellas says

      I agree I have found this the case since I was diagnosed 5 weeks ago. They think sometime you have been swallowed by it and is the end. Not always and having strong positive people are getting me through it. yes CANCER SUCKS and we are going to kick it’s butt.

  5. florence takacs says

    i think the thinh that irked me most was when people told me how lucky i was that i only had stage 1 cancer and it was caught early. while this is true i wanted to scream at them NO lucky is when you are never diagnosed with cancer.

  6. Anne says

    I had a friend who, right before my bilateral mastectomy, said "well, at least you get new boobs!" I'm sure she meant well…

  7. says

    Well, hello! I had a checkout operator make that very dark cloud comment to me while I was pushing through my second last round of chemo. She added, all quite loudly, that it been devastating for he family and particularly the children then asked me if I had a rewards card. I almost burst out laughing, I was so dumbfounded at her insensitivity. I am also very tired of being asked how I am!

  8. One.derwoman says

    The Cloud: I heard you are having a mastectomy. I wish I could give you some of my boobs. Mine are so big that I've been thinking of having breast reduction surgery.
    The Silver Lining: I hear you are having some challenges right now. When you are feeling up to it, lets go have coffee or maybe even a pedicure. I'll be checking in on you to see when you are up to it!

      • One.derwoman says

        Absolutely! It was after this point I decided I wanted to have a party once I am finished with my treatment. I plan to serve Butterscotch Schnapps and Irish Cream whiskey…(a drink known as slippery nipples) with my pink sisters. We will all share and laugh at our collection of crazy comments.