What not to say to someone that has been diagnosed with breast cancer

Channel avatar BABETTE



The No-No’s 

*At least you’re getting a free boob job. 

No. Not everyone wants implants. I loved my boobs. They weren’t big, but they were my boobs and I enjoyed the time I had with them. Its a part of my body I am losing. I am mourning my boobs. It’s not just a free boob job. 

*My aunt had breast cancer. She died. 

Ok. I might die too. I might suffer the terrible symptoms that your aunt did before she passed. I get that you are probably mourning, and I am sorry for your loss. A soldier doesn’t want to hear about the casualties. Please think before you blurt out the bad news.

*You brought this onto yourself. 

I am already remembering everything I might’ve done wrong in the past. Was it because I had a cigarette? Was it because of the weight I gained? Was it all the zero sugar diet drinks? 
Exactly how do you think I did this? I am questioning what I’ve done every single day. I am too hard on myself. Don’t make this harder for me. Nothing I did made me deserve this. 

*It’s (insert name here) fault you got breast cancer 

Getting cancer is nobody’s fault. It’s not the ex boyfriend that broke your heart, or because you don’t like your mother in law. It’s not your dog jumping to hard on your chest because he was too excited to see you!  Don’t make me feel resentment towards people and things I know and love. 

*Don’t do chemo! Go the natural route 

Do you want me to die? I am choosing the best option for me. There are different grades of how aggressive a cancer might be. If my life wasn’t at risk, I would’ve probably tried it, but please don’t question my treatment plan that was created by doctors that have studied this for years. They are saving my life. 

*You still look pretty.

Once is ok. But please don’t try and force me to believe this. I know you mean this well. And I probably do still look “pretty” to you. I just don’t feel it or believe it. I have lost my hair, my eyebrows, my lashes, my breasts and my identity. I’ve picked up weight because of the chemo and the cortisone is giving me a moon face. I don’t feel pretty, I feel bloated, fat and ugly. 

*(In accordance with dating after cancer) You’re in the high risk dating category now

That’s great! Thank you for letting me know I now have a smaller chance on meeting someone who will love me. Trust me this is not true. I’ve met someone while in treatment and when I am done I might even have a slimmer chance of reoccurrence than the woman you’re dating now. 


I know it’s awkward and you don’t know what to say. After being diagnosed casual acquaintances have become close friends, and close friends have dried out. Cancer has a way of showing you who really has your back.

The Do’s

*Speak from the heart. 

Just tell me you love me, that you’re sorry or thinking of me. It’ll be a perfect response to my diagnosis. Hugs are wonderful, and telling me you’re bringing pizza or chocolates will give you brownie points. 

*Offer help. 

Oh my word. This will really be so helpful. Instead of saying “Let me know if you need something” try suggesting specific tasks. 
Take me wig shopping. Fetch the kids from school. Bring dinner over on Tuesday night. Join me for my next chemo session. 

*Please tell me about your worries and problems. 

Having cancer is all consuming. I am not only thinking about it 24/7 but I am constantly being asked about it. I also need a break and I am still your friend. I want to know how you’re doing too. 

CANSA The Cancer Association of South Africa

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