8 Things Not To Say To Someone Who Has Cancer

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Looking to catch up on my Cosmo blog? Check out my recent list of less than helpful things to say:

1. “At least they caught it early.” How early is early enough? Any kind of cancer is going to require a major life change, likely surgery, possibly chemo, and a load of scars and pain. Sure, it can always be worse, and there are better scenarios than others. But anyone who has been diagnosed is most likely going to wish he or she had known a little sooner. Don’t rub it in.

2. “Are you scared?” How on earth am I supposed to answer that?! Of course I’m scared. I’ve just snagged myself a diagnosis that everyone fears. But I’m trying to be brave. My only option is to fight. So fight with me! Be fun and fearless, and we will conquer it together. If I’m upbeat, be upbeat too. When I get negative, just listen. No need to pile on to my already mounting anxieties.

 3. “My problems seem so stupid now!” OK, I’m going to be honest with you, sometimes they do. But they were always stupid before! Most day-to-day problems are when you really get down to it. But that’s what I love about our friendship. We can gab for hours about anything. We can analyze every part of your new crush’s most mundane text messages. I still want to do that. Cancer didn’t make me dull or prude or unable to listen to you bitch about your boss. In fact, your problems might just be the highlight of my day. Just remember, though, I have some bitching to do too. Let me go first and then have at it.

4. “Natalie Portman looked really beautiful with a shaved head.” Yes, she did. How could she not? She had a hair and makeup team and a whole film crew making sure she looked exactly how she should. I have a razor in my bathroom and a life-threatening illness. Not the same thing. Tell me that I look beautiful once you see my newly shaved head. Heck, shave yours too! What are friends for?

5. “I saw this article about a cure on Facebook…” Everyone from my colleagues to old acquaintances to the Thai food delivery guy has a new way to cure cancer. I have been told that eating raw snakeskin can do it! I’m not saying that none of this stuff is true. Some of the advice is interesting and helpful. But at a certain point, I have to trust my own instincts and my doctors to know the ins and outs of my particular circumstance. If you’ve had cancer and something worked for you, I’m happy to hear your experience. But too many untested Internet suggestions just make me feel like I’m not doing enough. Please don’t be offended if I pass on the reptile remedies.

6. “How did you get it?” Yes, people have asked me this. I don’t know. My doctors don’t know. Sometimes life is just random, and you have a stroke of bad luck. This question just puts me in the past instead of pointing me toward the future. And speaking of the future, don’t ask if I’m worried about getting cancer again. One thing at a time, my friend.

7. “This must be AWFUL for you!” Cancer sucks. It’s ugly and indiscriminate and shatters lives and families. That is a given. But life is beautiful. Living it with or without a disease is a privilege. I can honestly say there are moments of my life with cancer that have been happier than during my greatest successes. Don’t assume I’m resentful. Tell me stories of survivors you know (we all have them). Let’s talk about how freakin’ amazing it is to be on this planet. Then let’s shop for new clothes to wear with my new boobs!

8. “…” Whatever you do, don’t say nothing. “I figured everyone was calling you” or “I just wanted to give you space” are not good excuses in these situations. Maybe you’ll put your foot in your mouth. It wouldn’t be the first time. Don’t let it make you afraid to be supportive. As much as we may get stupid questions, we do have some grace for you. You didn’t ask cancer to come in your life anymore than we did. Be honest and tell us you don’t know what to say. Ask how you can help. Be there when we need it. That’s what life is all about anyway, cancer or not.



Check out the original post on Cosmopolitan.com!

19 thoughts on “8 Things Not To Say To Someone Who Has Cancer

  1. Your wit, wisdom and will to live a life that you control not the cancer leaves me in awe. Hooray to you!
    Andy’s mom

  2. This! On so many levels this! I have MS, and with the exception of the Natalie Portman comparison I get these all the time. Yes I am scared, no I don’t know how or why I got it. I don’t mind talking about it, but I also like to talk about your life. Don’t be afraid to be happy around me! I’m not breakable! Im a fighter.

  3. You are such a strong person Krysta! Even on your bad days, you have the courage to tell us and share with us as you go through this journey. And for that, I have the utmost respect for you and I am humbled by reading it.


  4. WHEW! Thank you for such great advice. Thankfully, so far I have not committed any of these! Probably have blindly done others though. Now let’s talk about what you should say. How about, ” I love you! I am here for you (and mean it!). What can I do to make you comfortable? Whatever you need – Just ask.”

  5. It’s a beautiful day (I will tweet you the photo), so only worry about the things you can control and enjoy and/or laugh at the rest…

  6. Krysta, you are amazing! We have been fighting a horrid disease for 14 years now and have been handed all types of advice, wanted and not, but best so far…..inject a healthy person’s feces. Yes?? NO!!!! ABSOLUTELY Not going there!! Thank you for sharing, for giving strength for those who may not have any left, and for helping us say the right things! So proud of you, beautiful woman!! And so proud of our OCHSA alum!!! (Parents of grads are alums, too!!

  7. Darling Krysta, I just read your Cosmo for the second time & realized I need to tell you about my friend Maryanne. She is 84 years old & is the strongest lady I know. She got breast cancer & bone cancer around the age of 40. She has 2 children, 4 grandchildren & 3 great grand children. When not traveling she is at the YWCA walking an hour on the treadmill every day & taking a Zumba class at least 3 times a week & aqua yoga twice a week. She also plays bridge twice a week & volunteers at least once a week at Driscoll Children,.s Hospital. Right now she is just finishing up a 26 day trip to India, Malaysia & Singapoor. I hope her story gives you hope & inspiration . Much love as always, Susan (J J’s Nana)

  8. I have never been much of a reader of blogs, but somehow came across yours and had to read them all!
    Your such a beautiful, amazing, talented young woman, which I’m simply in AWE of. I thank
    and applauded you for sharing your journey with other women.

    I own Bella Intimates, an intimate apparel shop, which also offer services to women who are going through or have had BC. I’m so thrilled to have come across your blog and be able to share it with my ladies.

    Believe & live fearlessly,

    PS. I am a cancer survivor myself and also a LEO!

  9. Recently diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer, these 8 scenarios are exactly what I have been facing for the past two months. Number 8 is definitely the toughest to deal with. I hate been the center of attention so having to make such a personal situation public was a real hardship for me but having friends and family take a step back because they didn’t know what to say was the hardest part so far. I wish you all the best in your recovery and will be fighting the good fight along with you.

  10. This really needed to be said. we don’t know what to say….we don’t know what to do ….. we feel incredibly helpless. Then we feel guilty for having thought about how we are feeling instead of how you are feeling. casual acquaintances are usually the ones completely without a filter-but us relatives can be just as bad. ” Why don’t we look for a pretty new bra?’ “Mom, it is likely that I will never be wearing a bra again.” oh.
    Kudos for this public sharing…..I hope it is a venue that will allow you to vent and maybe gain some insights from others, while you are helping those who have gone before you, walk alongside you and unfortunately those that will follow as well.

  11. I just followed a twitter link, to your article on Cosmopolitans website, to your blog. I love the internet. 🙂
    I have always had trouble understanding people who choose to keep their cancer diagnosis more than private, in some cases hidden.I talk to anyone who will hold still long enough to listen about mine. You’re the first person I’ve ever heard explain it. I think I understand a little better now.
    Great blog, great article and GORGEOUS pictures!
    Stay strong and hardcore.

  12. Thank you so much for writing this blog. I am about to go through a stem cell transplant and this blog has been a joy to discover! Thank you so much for sharing your journey and thoughts with us.


  13. Hey Krysta…I’m 32 and was diagnosed with BC last year (DCIS…the “best”kind of cancer, or so I’ve been told. I underwent a bilateral mastectomy in the winter. And I’ll be thinking of you. You provide me inspiration constantly. And your blog reminds me that I’m not alone in this….

    Your list is so accurate, I laughed out loud while I read it (comforting, but disappointing that so many of us have to experience this). In the spirit of sharing war stories, I’d like to amplify your list with the following, each of which I’ve been posed at various stages and from various people.

    (Well intended idiot): “I heard you had cancer. What kind”?
    (Me): “um…Breast Cancer.”
    (Idiot): “oooohhh. Well it least it’s NOT a SCARY CANCER. Thank God. You’ll be fine.”
    Me: wow. I didn’t know cancer couldn’t be scary. So thanks, I needed that.

    Well intended idiot: ” I heard you had breast cancer. My great aunt/friend of my mom/friend of a friend/former babysitter/4th cousin had that. She died.”
    (I’m not kidding. I’ve gotten this at least 3 times.)

    Remarkably inept fellow: “I left an article on your desk. It’s about mastectomies. And how getting one won’t actually increase your long term survival.”
    Me: I’m good. But thanks. Since I already seem to have undergone the procedure, it’s kind of mute. Also, congrats. I didn’t know you went to medical soon in the 2 months I’ve been out.

    And my personal favorite…..this one was toughest for me to take….
    (Moron….upon learning that I was recovering from my mastectomy): “sucks you got cancer! But at least you get a FREE boob job!”
    After a deep breath, I calmly managed to explain the difference between a “boob job” versus a mastectomy with reconstruction. Maybe in graphic, horrifyingly acute detail. I don’t think said Moron will make the same mistake when she encounters the next gal undergoing reconstruction.

    I hate that you are in this club, Krysta. Thank you for having the courage to share your story and inspire so many.

  14. I can’t personally relate to what you’re going through, Krysta, however I can share with you some stories of two amazing cancer-ass-kicking women in my life. In 2013, my eighty-year-old grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Doctors took her case extremely seriously and listened to all of her needs. My grandma had her left breast removed, and opted to not go through chemo because at eighty, she wasn’t sure how she’d do. As of this month (July 2015) My grandma is two years cancer free!
    Now my aunt, in her early fifties, was diagnosed with uterine cancer just a few short months ago. She had to have a hysterectomy, and because her case was extremely severe her doctors highly recommended chemo and radiation. Recently my aunt started losing her hair, so she shaved her head, and my aunt/her wife shaved her head in support. So far my aunt is doing quite well, but she’s only gone through one session of chemo so far, and still has a long journey left to go.
    In general, Krysta, you’ve always been an inspiration to me as a beautiful and talented celebrity, however now you’re an inspiration because you’re opening up about a very touchy topic, that has to be difficult for anyone to talk about, especially when you’re going through what you are going through. I wish you the best of luck, and the best of health!!
    Much love! <3

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