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Don't Call Me a Skinhead and Other Cancer Faux Pas


This is a very short story.

While visiting my mother in a skilled nursing facility, shortly after completing six rounds of chemotherapy, we were enjoying dinner and pleasant conversation when I noticed a concerned look on my mother's face. In response to my questioning, my mother informed me that she overheard the elderly woman at the adjacent table refer to me as a “skinhead.”

Throughout my development, my mother emphasized looking presentable and showing good manners in public. I was also taught to respect my elders. Without hesitation however, I turned towards the next table and announced loudly, "That's OK, Mom, they're just ignorant."

The lesson to be learned that day was first of all, you can call me what you like, but don't offend my mother. I also felt empowered in my response. Since that day, I have learned that other cancer patients have also heard comments that would be better left unsaid. A young cancer patient relayed how her boss's initial response to her cancer disclosure, was "we'll all die at some time", or something to that effect.

In addition to all the special targeted medical treatments, we at, times may need to create an invisible shield to protect us emotionally from the stinging arrows of the uninformed.

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