It’s October again. The month when the world turns pink. For breast cancer patients and survivors, breast cancer awareness is January, February, March… You get the idea. This is a different take on breast cancer from one survivor’s perspective. First, a few facts. One in eight women will hear, “I’m sorry, you have breast cancer.” But, breast cancer is not specific to women. Men have breast tissue and can and do get breast cancer. It’s the exact same condition. Breast cancer is not a single condition. There are many different varieties with many different treatment options. So, what would this survivor like you to know? Not all of us get excited with pink. Some do, some don’t. For some of us, pink reminds us of where we’ve been and it’s a positive experience. For others of us, it reminds us of a time that we’re trying to put behind us. Please don’t tell a patient about the treatment that your friend, family member or acquaintance went through. Every patient is different and as previously noted, there are many varieties of breast cancer. Treatment plans can vary greatly. Don’t call reconstruction a “free boob job.” It’s not and you have no idea the journey the patient has been on. (And there are different types of reconstruction. Reconstruction isn’t strictly about expanders.”) Don’t say “It’s only hair.” when a patient loses their hair to chemotherapy. Again, you have no idea what they are going through and what they are thinking. Don’t say, “You don’t look sick.” Cancer is irregular cell growth that affects the body. It isn’t an illness and it’s not contagious. You may have heard that the scariest words in the English language are “You have cancer.” I respectfully submit that those are the second scariest words. The first scariest is hearing “You have cancer” again, a new or repeated occurrence.
Lora McCann is owner of Peace of Mind Patient Advocacy. She is a breast cancer cancer survivor. If you or someone you care about is having challenges navigating healthcare, please call her at 239-322-9153 to see how she can bring peace of mind to the situation.
Peace of Mind Patient Advocacy