Your email address:

Powered by FeedBlitz

Wendy crop  compress  40

My Mission

Helping Others through the Synergy of Science and Caring
How this blog supports my mission


« A Doctor Ponders the Loss of a Patient | Main | Tolerating Treatment »

April 05, 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Ronni Gordon

That was a good article...and the photo of you was great! Latest example of what not to say: A kind of awkward man who I know from yoga was trying to be supportive on the way out of class the other night. Paraphrase: "I picked up Gilda Radner's book on her cancer. Now I know what you've been going through. Of course, she died." Don't tell me stories about people who died, even if you're trying to be helpful!


Because I had ovarian cancer, one person I told blurted out to me "Isn't that what Gilda Radner had?" Fortunately, I recognized that as the kind of brain spasm that makes people wish they hadn't opened their mouths. The comments that infuriated me were the ones insisting that I had to "stay positive." Hell if I do!

One good thing came out of people's awkward and occasionally infuriating remarks to me when I had cancer: I learned to think before responding when friends and their family members were later diagnosed.


I have a lot of 'what not to say'- stories about lymphedema. After my breast cancer surgery I'm at higher risk for the rest of my life and I'm scared of it. A 'friend' of mine whose acquaintance has it to a high degree keeps repeating to me 'you should see x's arm,' and 'you won't get it anymore, not if you didn't get it after surgery.' ... sigh ...

Lori Hope

On behalf of all of us impacted by cancer, thank you so much for sharing your wise words with Ms. Schultz. I just this morning finished the manuscript of the second edition of my book (which you reference here), and I feel privileged to continue to trumpet the message of compassionate communication.

The survey of more than 600 survivors I recently conducted reflect and confirm what you, your readers, and the readers of the Dallas News note. Hopefully, the benign treatment for and prevention of "Foot in Mouth Disease" will become more widely available.

Thank you again,

Jonnie Hickman

Thank you Dr Wendy your insight is beautiful. I am forwarding your entry on to others. While I was doing Chemo and had no hair, I was approached a lot being told stories of win and of loss. Every single story gave me hope.

One day, I was going into a cafe with a friend. I had to hold on to her because the lesions on my brain stem were making me fall a lot. A rough looking man on a Harley motorcycle drove up and stopped in front of me. He leaned in to me and whispered, "You got the cancer?" I said, "Yes, I have a blood cancer." Then this mans look softened and his eyes filled up with tears.

He had lost his wife the year before to breast cancer. In that moment I realized that being a nurse was my job and this cancer fight was my new ministry. There are lessons in every interaction. I love being a student to life.


Jan Hasak

Dr. Wendy, Thank you so much for your post and the link to the article and two books. Cancer etiquette is one of the topics I address in my talks to various audiences about my two bouts with cancer and ongoing lymphedema. Everything you say jives with my experience--and my advice. One of my favorite "Foot-in-Mouth Disease" sayings (as Lori so aptly puts it) is: "You've got a good kind of cancer." How can any cancer be good?

All the best,

Carolyn Thomas

Thanks Dr. Wendy for this and for the link to the illuminating newspaper article too.

I'm not a cancer patient, but I am a heart attack survivor. Many of us, too, cringe at well-meaning 'ouch' comments directed our way.

I believe it's only when you have actually experienced a life threatening diagnosis personally that you actually 'get it' in a meaningful way.

More on this at: "You Look Great! And Other Things You Should Never Say To Heart Patients" at:

I've also included a brief excerpt of your own story on my essay called "When Doctors Become Patients" at:

Carolyn Thomas

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad