breast cancer, life, Uncategorized

Don’t say it…



“Everything happens for a reason.” No, it doesn’t. Sometimes, it just happens.

“God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” Really? Not a Biblical statement. The Bible verse frequently used to support this statement discusses temptation. Never does the Bible say we won’t be given more than we can handle.

“Something good will come from this.” Define good for me. What if I don’t like your definition of good?

“It’s part of The Plan.” What Plan? God’s? See above “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” and “Everything happens for a reason.”

“I completely understand how you feel.” If you haven’t had cancer, you don’t understand at all. Sorry, but you don’t understand. My mother had cancer. My grandfather died of cancer. My grandmother died of cancer. I have no idea how it really felt for any of them. I only know what hearing the words “You have _____ cancer” feels like. I know the indescribable fear and utter numbness and hot anger. You understand how it feels to hear someone you know or love has cancer. It’s not the same as hearing the words about yourself and knowing the monster lives in you.

I have a dear friend who survived stage 3B inflammatory HER2 breast cancer. She endured months and months of Red Devil. Weeks and weeks of radiation. A year of Herceptin. She’s never told me she completely understands. She’s told me she remembers what treatment was like, but our experiences are different. We have (had?) different forms of breast cancer. We had different chemos. I had severe burning with radiation. She did not. We use the same oncologist. Of anyone who can say she or he understands, it would be her. But, she doesn’t. She says she’s here for me if I need to talk to someone who understands what it’s like to hear those four words, “You have breast cancer.” She tells me she’s here if I need to talk through options. She tells me she understands my fears.

She can say she understands completely, but she doesn’t  say it. She’s been here, done this. She does understand, yet she doesn’t. Our experiences are different. We’re passengers on this roller coaster, and everyone experiences a roller coaster differently.

Here’s the irony: I’m guilty of saying “I completely understand” to others with breast cancer. Just because I’ve heard those four words doesn’t mean I completely understand. Just because I’m a card carrying member of the cancer club doesn’t give me license to claim I completely understand. There’s a grim comradery that comes with cancer, but a complete understanding? Maybe not so much.

It’s hard when someone says any of these things to me. And, I need to remember how it makes me feel so I don’t inadvertently infuriate someone else.

I need to remember not to say a platitude. I need to listen. Really listen. Be fully present in a conversation. Listen with intent. (Hello coaching training) Remember what matters.


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