A Conversation on the Trail

While puffing up the hill on my bike this afternoon, I was passed by an acquaintance from church who was cruising downhill.  He turned around to pedal beside me and catch up on family news.  Now I wish I’d ridden a lot faster.

I’m surprised that stuff like this even causes me to blink these days, since the hard parts are behind me and I’m in breast-cancer-in-the-rear-view-mirror mode. Nevertheless, our conversation left me gobsmacked.  Here’s how it went.

Bla, bla, bla…where you goin’ to church these days, how are the wife and kids, do you know where George moved after he sold his house, bla, bla…  And then, BAM.

“Have you had both surgeries yet?” he asked.

“Both surgeries?”  I asked, confused.

“Yeah, you know, two breasts, two surgeries.”

“Uh…well…yes, those surgeries are all finished.”

“Oh, good.  So you’re clean now?  Or are you just hoping to make it to five years?”

No kidding.  I’m not making this up, and I’m not exaggerating for dramatic emphasis.  He really said it.

I was speechless, which is unusual for me.  And hopping mad.  Fortunately for him and his his bicycle, Jerry had cycled up between us and caught the tail end of the conversation, just as I was gaping at him and about to run over my lip because my mouth was hanging open in astonishment.  “Hey,” Jerry blurted, thinking fast.  “Have you heard we have a new grandbaby?”  Distract, deflect.

Although admittedly well-intended, what the man said is a good example of what NOT to say to a cancer survivor during a casual conversation.  I was so taken aback, my powers of repartee departed entirely.  Had they not, however, this is what I would have shot back:

“I’m fine, thanks.  I wasn’t aware I had been dirty, and I certainly hope I live to see five more years.  After all I’ve been through it would be a huge waste if I were to fall over dead on the trail here.”

When you’re chatting with a cancer survivor, you do not get to ask, indirectly or point blank, if they’re sure the cancer is gone.

And since I know you’re curious, more about the grandbaby in the next post.

“Careless words stab like a sword, but the words of wise people bring healing.”     Proverbs 12:18


8 thoughts on “A Conversation on the Trail

  1. Arghhhh! Painful even to read. You got this. Thanks for the reminder and sensitivity training. Praying you will be surrounded with positive, forward thinking, happy people. What a sucky encounter! Love you, Katy Hadduck.

    Sent from my iPad

  2. First time I visited your blog, and this is the first post I read. I have had many insentitive things said to me during my cancer journey, but this one takes the prize. You handled it very well. I always try to convince myself when somebody says something insensitive like that it comes from ignorance, not meaness.

    And, your blog shows no hint of mean spiritedness.

    • Thanks, Goldie, and thanks for reading my humble scribbling. My DIL set me up with the blog when I was first diagnosed and it’s been a wonderful outlet for me. And you’re right…every time I’ve been stung by something someone said, I know they’ve said it out of concern for me, with absolutely no intention of being insensitive or inappropriate. Over the years, I’m sure I’ve done the same thing a few times!

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