Perhaps by saying Iíll be fine, you are really saying that you donít have to think of me in any other way.
Ellen was a teacher, drug/alcohol counselor and school counselor for 32 years. Always being fairly “unique,” she was diagnosed with a unique form of breast cancer – one tumor followed by two more malignant tumors – in 2007. Ellen and her husband, although native New Yorkers, have lived in Seattle for 41 years. They have two grown children, two grandchildren and two standard poodles.
It’s interesting how others react to those of us with a cancer diagnosis. There really are not any guidebooks for people about what to say or do and what not to say or do. Most just follow their heart. Or not.
I have witnessed a wide range of reactions. There were those who were very uncomfortable to see what I was going through. Not being able to express their concern, they simply didn’t say or even do anything. Some were afraid they could “catch” it. Witnessing me - a healthy, vibrant woman who “got cancer” and, overnight, became, “a sick” human being, couldn’t it happen to them?
However, the most pronounced reaction to my treatment and certainly when I was “finished” with treatment was the statement I heard repeatedly – “You’ll be fine.” It was kind of like I was over a bad cold. Perhaps by saying I’ll be fine, you are really saying that you don’t have to think of me in any other way. It works… but who does it work for? People have even argued with me, saying that since I have had treatment for my breast cancer, I am at no greater risk for a recurrence than they are.
Maybe so. But, honestly, you can’t convince me of that.
Once those toxic cells invaded our bodies, we live with the fear it can happen again. And pray that it doesn’t. I have a friend who recently had surgery for kidney cancer. As soon as her surgery was over, she was told by well-meaning people she’ll be fine.
The bottom line is that cancer is a bit of a crap shoot – we play with the odds, statistics, percentages. We try to be “fine,” but as the future is uncertain for all of us, it’d be nice if you tell us how healthy we look, how happy you are to see us and cheer us on.
I’m sure it’s with good intent, but saying, “You’ll be fine” feels dismissive.