WHAT TO SAY TO SOMEONE WITH BREAST CANCER
by Phyllis Ward
Me and Cancer
What I Learn in Spring, 2009
And so…And so… I have breast Cancer.
Nodes are involved so chemo and radiation for me. It will take a week or two to sort out exactly what kinds of Draino to use, how many, how often, where, etc. but it means a no guilt lazy summer.
It’s generally a good sign that I’ve been napping a lot and luxuriating in it. If I was near death’s door I imagine myself as the kind of person who would realize she would never feel better and cheerfully go out dancing or swim the English Channel. What a relief to cuddle up with a good book and listen to the rain.
It has rained an awful lot lately hasn’t it? Or has it been one long day?
People have been wonderful to me. Us. Both of us. My darling husband Michael is the long suffering one here. I am Camille. With older skin.
So in the spirit of all of us getting something out of this boring garden variety form of: Everybody has it, what makes you so special that you get a whole month of pink ribbons cancer, I am going to share with you what no one else tells you—What to say to people with cancer.
My sister Therese is at the tail end of treatments for stage 3 breast cancer. Last week she went to lunch with a friend. In mid-lunch–apropos of nothing in the conversation–this person asks T if she remembers Laura–who was at T’s house about a year ago. Then goes on to share that said Laura had a lumpectomy and then the cancer returned and now, one year later, she’s dead.
What part of that story could possibly be considered encouraging?
But almost as tough–not quite–are the folks who tell you it’s a no big deal, barely a hangnail event in your life. Yes, I know I’m likely to die of something else, actually I didn’t know that but now am grateful that I do. However wonderful the advances in treatment are, however terrific my doctors are, however much we each know dozens of women who are now fine, we also each know women who have died.
And so what’s the best thing to say? Some variation of “I’m so sorry you have to go through this” is about perfect.
So here I am, poised somewhere between a hangnail and death. Closer to a hangnail for sure but that swinging needle does jump to the dark side on occasion. Mostly late at night when it’s raining.
UPDATE: Phyllis Ward is now cured….or in remission. As they say in TV, only time will tell.
Phyllis Ward began her television career as a producer, director, and writer in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and London. After starting her own production company Ward traveled the world for 25 years making films for just about every network out there – and meeting lots of incredible people along the way.
Of her three dozen journalism awards, Ward is most proud of winning a Dupont-Columbia for a documentary she produced on the baby boom generation and its continuing effects on American life. This award is the television equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize.
Ward lives with her husband on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, selling real estate, dabbling in personal films and writing snippets.