Top 3 Things you should NEVER say to a breast cancer patient

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” ~ Ephesians 4:32

“Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.”  Sound familiar? Easy to say, but is it true?  OUCH the last time I checked words can hurt, I have wounds to prove it.  One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned throughout this season of breast cancer is to forgive.   I have come to accept that well-meaning  people can say really hurtful things.

Geez Louise!

Yesterday was the strangest day ever.  I just went out to a tile store to buy some props and then a quick stop into the grocery store for noodles. What should have been a simple day of running errands turned into a jolting ride on an emotional rollercoaster that I could hardly wait to get off of.   I couldn’t get home fast enough after having the most hurtful conversations with strangers who happened to notice my port.  Let me explain, I have a port-a-cath that was surgically placed into my chest just beneath my collar bone back in January 2014.  It is about the size of a quarter and sticks out like a giant mosquito bite because my chest is boney.  It’s not supposed to hurt, but mine does – it’s an every day reminder that everything is not quite “normal”.  Through my port I received all of the chemo as opposed to having an IV and having to hunt for a vein in my arms.  The nurse essensitally puts the needle straight into the port which is directly connected to a vein, YUCK – I know, it’s not pretty.   And even though chemotherapy is done, I still have to receive intravenous antibody treatment until March of 2015.  I always have it covered with a bandage, but it’s noticeable – what am I going to do?

My head is still spinning and I’m trying to figure out why?  Why do family, friends, and strangers say the craziest things to me? I know they are not mean spirited people, they are not trying to hurt me … but if that is true, then why do I end up in bed, curled up in ball, crying my eyes out?

Can I share with you the Top 3 Things you should NEVER say to a breast cancer patient?

  1. “Don’t worry you’re not going to die” … YES, people actually say this to me! In my head I’m thinking, “Oh thank you very much, I feel much better now that you think I’m not going to die,” not to mention the fact that I wasn’t actually thinking about dying, until you mentioned it …
  2.  Please don’t tell me about your best friend, cousin, mother, or sister that died from breast cancer.  Death is a scary reality for cancer patients, I’m not in denial, it’s just that …  I am planning to live .
  3. This is my least favorite comment, “At least you get new boobs.” I don’t want “new boobs”!  If you only knew the pain and agony that I’ve been through, you would never say this to me or any other breast cancer patient. Imagine having your nose amputated and then having reconstruction surgery, how would you feel if somebody said, “At least you get to have a new nose”?  I don’t know any breast cancer patient that is excited about getting surgery for their  “new boobs”.

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” ~1Peter 1

God has given me a lot of opportunites lately to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving.  If you are reading this and know that you are one of the people who have said something like this, don’t worry, I’m not upset.  What I’ve learned the most from these interactions is that words don’t have the ability to hurt me, unless I let them.  It’s not what people say, but instead it’s my own lingering feelings of fear and insecurity that their words stir up  inside of me. That is the part I’m responsible for and I’m counting it as a blessing (it’s not easy, I’m working on it everyday).  It’s just one more way God is drawing me in closer as he continues to refine my character and strengthen my faith.


16 comments… add one
  • Michele Jones November 12, 2014, 4:44 pm

    One of my favorite things about you is your ability to speak truth in love. Thanks for sharing from your heart.

  • Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious November 12, 2014, 5:06 pm

    Words of wisdom. Thank you for this advice. I don’t believe I ever have or would say those things, but I want to hear what is helpful and what is not. Thank you, Louise, for always telling us the truth. rd

  • Christina November 12, 2014, 5:10 pm

    Dear God, I will never understand why people don’t have an an ounce of common sense anymore. It is hard to believe that people actually say those things out loud. I’m so sorry.

  • Adair @ Lentil Breakdown November 12, 2014, 5:59 pm

    Great post, and I especially love the last line.

  • Quyen November 12, 2014, 7:36 pm

    Thank you Louise for sharing and being so honest. Thinking of you and sending you love. xo

  • Jeanette November 12, 2014, 9:19 pm

    You’re a beautiful soul Louise. I love you. You’re correct as well, And I love you all the more for truthtelling.

    • Chef Louise Mellor December 3, 2014, 7:59 am

      Jeanette, 3 things – you and I know there could be a list of at least 100, right?

  • Lana November 12, 2014, 11:55 pm

    Oh, how hurtful words can be! . People sometimes try too hard and their awkward attempts at comforting can do a lot of damage. Stay strong, my lovely friend! XOXO

  • Neesie November 16, 2014, 10:09 am

    Prayers for strength, confidence and peace. I’m recovering from Surgery removing colon cancer and the best one yet is ” What did you do to get cancer?” Kinda floored me

    • Chef Louise Mellor December 3, 2014, 7:58 am

      Neesie, I hope you are having a speedy recovery. I was diagnosed November 2013, I will be in treatment until April 2015… long journey

  • Sippitysup November 17, 2014, 7:56 pm


  • Lorinda McKinnon - the Rowdy Baker December 27, 2014, 6:28 pm

    I know several bloggers going through this journey right now, and have heard similar experiences. People try too hard to be reassuring, or to add a bit of humor to lighten the conversation. Sometimes a hug and silence are a better choice!

  • Sue March 1, 2015, 3:56 pm

    Hello, I came across our blog while looking for a recipe, & saw our photograph of our port-a-cath. I too have one, having had breast cancer 14yrs ago. But the port is use often as my veins have shut down after all the chemo treatment. Ports weren’t available here in Australia when I was having treatment.I’m sorry you’ve had a difficult day, people can be so thoughtless at times. Take care & best wishes.

  • cristina May 7, 2015, 9:12 am

    Louise – xo – thinking of you…

  • Tina Swain May 19, 2015, 7:41 am

    Your post made me smile. Been there done that like they say. I had a few mantras, one being Death is not an option. I knew a few drops of poison would not get the better of me. I would look in the bathroom mirror everyday, stare at myself…then I would growl and spew out, “Cancer, eat sh*t and DIE!!!!”
    I continued to work all through chemo and radiation. I am a 8 year survivor now and it seems like yesterday yet eons ago.. Isn’t the worse part looking at the worry in your mom’s and husband’s eyes. I saw more pain in their eyes than I was in. There is not one day that I didn’t and still don’t thank God for just giving me breast cancer. It really makes me love my life, love my family and love my God. Celebrate the da….EVERY day!

  • Jen July 9, 2015, 4:47 pm

    Louise, I just found your site bc I was looking for a Sumac recipe – my favorite new spice!

    and ran into your pic with the port directing me to this blog.

    God Bless you, Louise, and I hope you are well.
    I can see you are a strong woman already.

    Stay well, and please keep inspiring women worldwide with cancer
    and remedial cooking behaviors. we need all the help we can get.

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