A Bad Day

It happens.  Well-intentioned people can say the most astonishingly insensitive things; people in possession of big hearts and sound minds can sometimes be devastatingly negative.  Short of punching them in the nose, what do you do?


The other day a dear friend said the following to me:


“I was talking to a client who has breast cancer and I told her about you and she told me it’s really not good when you get it when you’re young, the chances of surviving are really not good!  And I said, Oh no, why are you telling me this?!?”


More to the point, why was she telling me this??


Good person, bad judgment. 


I tried to brush it off, but the truth is I felt robbed of a lot of the optimism that has carried me through this fight. I just want to walk away from this time of having breast cancer and never look back.  Those words made me feel that I can’t do that.


(My mother texted me after I told her this little tale: “I will kill her with my bare hands and pull her tongue out.”  That’s mothers for you – they just rock.)


Today when I went in for treatment I asked my oncologist, who very reasonably told me that there are too many variables and factors in each case to make a generalized statement like that; that there are too many different kinds of breast cancer…  That yes, of course I am at greater risk of recurrence (having had breast cancer, having had it travel to my lymph nodes) but that I am being treated “curatively.”  Ultimately she can do a statistical analysis of my particular case, but, she explained, the results are just statistical, and many people prefer not to be given those stats.  Then I asked her whether I could consider having another child if ovarian function returns — she said I need to consider the probability of recurrence when I make that decision.


For the first time in a long time, I was a mess today.  The nurses who have treated me for more than a year were surprised to find me in a tearful heap in my giant recliner as they hooked me up to my IV.  Luckily they had pecan pie on hand. 


There was no bad news today – if anything my oncologist was reassuring.  I’m just having a bad day.  A bad cancer day.  There are good days and bad days, and this one just isn’t a good one.  But in general, I have far more good ones than bad. And maybe tomorrow will be a good day again.




Filed under Living with Breast Cancer

4 responses to “A Bad Day

  1. angela

    I know just how you feel, I think people say things without thinking, they haven’t lived through and beaten cancer. They don’t understand the fragility of our optimism. Stop people in mid-sentence when that kind of scenario begins. Change the subject and walk away, stay away from negativity. I have had to say sometimes that I don’t want to talk about my cancer, it is over and I dont want to dwell on it. Some people do want to hear all the details. You are a strong wonderful young woman who has faced all this with grace and courage. Reading your blog has helped me get through some of my bad days. I’m almost old enough to be your mom, I’m with your mother-let’s rip her face off….angela

  2. Rhonda

    Thank you for sharing your courageous walk with breast cancer. Many prayers are with you.

    Regarding your, “a bad day” blog, over the years I have unconsciously or consciously kept most heartfelt situations to myself or have shared with a very small circle of friends. The reason, many good intention people say down right stupid things. When your heart or spirits are low one dumb comment can throw you over the edge.

    If I can say anything, I have learned seeing many people struggle with illnesses is that stats and western medicine only tell one side of the story. Many people I have personally known were given negative are shall I say horrific diagnosis only to far surpass all expectations. Most actually beat the disease. Mind over matter is more powerful than anything else we have.

    Surround yourself with optimistic people who love you deeply and can provide love and encouragement throughout your journey.

  3. lcoppen

    Angela – “They don’t understand the fragility of our optimism.” HOW TRUE.

    And that means they don’t mean any harm in what they say.

    (But there’s still something to be said about the ferocity of mothers – we will bare our teeth rather than watch our children get hurt. God help us, and anyone who crosses our kids!)

    And, Rhonda – “Surround yourself with optimistic people who love you deeply and can provide love and encouragement…” They are there for me, I know it. I haven’t walked alone a single step.

    Thanks to both of you for commenting. I am already having a MUCH better day!


  4. Geminigirl

    Oh Leanne,

    I wish I had checked in on Thursday. When people open mouth about cancer and insert foot, I wish they would trip! 🙂 I’m with your Mum. I like her response.

    I think back to the things people have said to me about cancer, treatment, survival and I shake my head in amazement. The people who usually say the “stupid” things haven’t been where you and I have been. They haven’t struggled with their mortality, their fertility and, probably highest up there, the fear of dying way too soon.

    Those of us who are survivors (this is one of those times when the word is appropriate) know our optimism can be fragile; know we are extremely realistic, our cancer journey has required that of us; but also know we don’t need to hear stupid stuff. It’s just not “on”!

    I don’t like the phrase “I know how you feel”. Ummm, how? NO. One may have an idea of how I feel because one can empathize, but until they have been where I’ve been, I believe it is best to use the word “imagine”. Even then each individual’s experience is as unique as the individual.

    I’m sorry if I’m ranting. I just feel protectively towards you. You have shown great courage in sharing your journey through cancer with your blog. I am optimistic your friend didn’t mean to undermine your optimism, but I am annoyed all the same. I hope at some point, she understands the impact of her words.

    Stats are numbers. We are human beings. Stats are useful indicators, but that’s about it. I had a 50/50 chance of survival without chemo and radiation; with treatments I gained a 15% better chance of survival. The stats haven’t kept me here, good luck and good medical care have.

    Please do not give cancer any additional power in your life. Yes, we’ve had it. Yes, it will always be a part of us in some way, BUT, it is not who we are or who we will be. As survivors we will always look at life a bit differently from others.

    You have earned the right to acknowledging some days suck and to be angry at stupid comments which make the day suck worse. You are entitled to worry about the future. You’ve worked hard to be where you are today.

    Take good care of yourself. Enjoy your little girl. Revel in the Spring and the newness of life. Remember, you make a difference every day.


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