How do you handle rude comments?

  1. Long story short, my sister and my mom both have cancer right now. My mom had breast cancer, which is now in her stomach. My sister has breast cancer and she just had a double mastectomy. I have been under a lot of stress, needless to say.

    So, when I told a very close friend of mine that my sister had breast cancer, her first response was "does she eat a lot of sugar?" I was shocked. I tend to not know how to respond when people say rude, insensitive things. I have learned there are many different causes of breast cancer. My sister happens to have a breast cancer gene, no not BRCA. Anyway, then recently when I told this same friend about my sister's mastectomy she asked "So does this mean she will be flat as a board??" I just said "yep!!" Then, the more I thought about what she said the more angry I became over the next few days. This friend is not in the medical field, but I think the majority of women know what a mastectomy is...don't they?? So, I chalked it up to ignorance. I discussed it with her later and she claimed she wasn't sure because I have been acting so "normal" about it all, like it isn't very serious or something. I told her I don't cry every single minute about it, but it is very serious. Then same friend asked me if my sister had missed some mammograms. Mind you, I had already told this friend about her diagnosis. The radiologist my sister had missed the cancer on a mammogram. Anyway, I just feel like this friend has pointed all fingers at my sister, like the cancer is her "fault". The "flat as a board" comment is hard to get out of my head. I have been avoiding this friend because of this. She told me she would never say anything to hurt my feelings. Well, then people really need to be careful before they open their mouths!

    Then a nurse at work was talking to me about breast cancer. Her sister died from it, so you would think she would be sensitive about commenting on my sister. She actually told me "Did you know the percentage of men leaving their wives after a mastectomy is really high?" Wow. Just wow. I really have learned to be very very careful who I talk to!!

    Has anyone experienced this??

    One more thing....my so-called close friend was the first person I called when I found out my mom's breast cancer had spread to her stomach...which is incurable. I cried to my friend for almost 20-30 minutes. This was a few months ago. Them, just recently I mentioned to her something about my mom's stomach cancer and the friend said "your mom has stomach cancer??" OMG. My jaw literally dropped. My friend is becoming not so close anymore. This is proof she doesn't listen very well. I had told her my mom was vomiting for over a year...usually people close to you would remember something like that. Or do I just expect too much? Thanks for letting me vent. I have talked to other people with cancer who say they have lost friends because of rude comments. I think my friend isn't as much of a friend as I thought she was.
    Last edit by Joe V on Dec 20, '17
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  2. 80 Comments

  3. by   Ambersmom
    I'm sorry for the insensitive comments you've heard, when my mom had cancer there were a few people I confided in who gave me the same weird responses, people I thought who would be there for me weren't at least not emotionally. The way I came to handle it was to realize that some people are not so much insensitive but just don't want to say the wrong thing, and there are those who could not empathize to save their souls, and those who just cannot handle bad news. So, when I encountered one of those comments I usually just gave a one word reply or didn't say anything and I never opened up to them again,ever. But if someone attempted to make a joke out of it, I would respond that I found absolutely nothing funny about my mother having cancer.
    You will find that often the people you would have thought would have been there for you weren't, and the ones you never expected to be are.
  4. by   Flatline
    I am sorry for your relative's health issues.

    We all grieve in different ways. Since I do not know you I default to the "sorry for your XYZ" which is the PC thing to do but can be seen as somewhat disingenuous and cold. If you were a friend I would likely default to more of a camaraderie or "I'm in this with you" kind of stance which may include asking questions.

    Being a nurse, I personally do not want to ever hear, "I am sorry for your XYZ" just because I personally do not like that statement. I am more of the lets deal with the situation as it is kind of person.

    I would not be so quick to lay fault at those around you. We all grieve in different ways and it is sometimes very hard to read minds, especially the mind of a nurse. You will need your friends, keep them close.
  5. by   pixierose
    Ignorance is bliss ... to some people.

    My mom has breast cancer, and it has spread. It's devastating, and during a time when your family needs you most ... you turn to your friends for comfort.

    Unfortunately, sometimes you find out just who can provide that comfort with compassion. Who can listen to our own fears wholeheartedly, hold us up after we've been holding up those fighting the battle (trying not to shed our tears because we want to be strong for the person actually undergoing the chemo, the surgeries, the radiation burns, the vomiting ... but we are scared to death and heart broken while watching).

    You just want to collapse when you're away, admit your fear and uncertainty and absolute love for that person fighting cancer to someone who you think can take it ... and they act like an arse. It hurts.

    I think of it as ignorance. Self protection. If someone can blame it on a sugar free diet, or missing mammograms ... then they can say "nope, WON'T HAPPEN TO ME."

    As for people like your coworker ... some people just have no common sense, no filter. Some people fill that space with uncomfortable conversation. Brush it off.

    I'm sorry you're going through this. Hugs and prayers to you and your family.
  6. by   MA Nurse
    Thanks. I can see now what you mean by my friend maybe thinking to herself " that won't happen to me" because she eats very little sugar. I just wish people would say nothing if they can't say anything supportive. My friend tends to be holistic. she is also anti-vaccine so it's difficult to talk to her about medical things. I won't be talking to her about cancer again, that's for sure. Just makes me sad. You are all right about how you expect certain people to be there fo ryou, but they can't be.
  7. by   Sour Lemon
    Quote from MA Nurse
    Thanks. I can see now what you mean by my friend maybe thinking to herself " that won't happen to me" because she eats very little sugar. I just wish people would say nothing if they can't say anything supportive. My friend tends to be holistic. she is also anti-vaccine so it's difficult to talk to her about medical things. I won't be talking to her about cancer again, that's for sure. Just makes me sad. You are all right about how you expect certain people to be there fo ryou, but they can't be.
    Consider asking for what you need and expect before taking a conversation in that direction. People probably feel pressured to respond and they don't know what to say ...so they just blurt out the first related thought that crosses their mind.
  8. by   Ambersmom
    Quote from MA Nurse
    Thanks. I can see now what you mean by my friend maybe thinking to herself " that won't happen to me" because she eats very little sugar. I just wish people would say nothing if they can't say anything supportive. My friend tends to be holistic. she is also anti-vaccine so it's difficult to talk to her about medical things. I won't be talking to her about cancer again, that's for sure. Just makes me sad. You are all right about how you expect certain people to be there fo ryou, but they can't be.
    Yeah, people who I would've sworn would have my back avoided me like the plague or made the weirdest comments that made little sense, I was in nursing school at the time and I remember sitting in class one day and another student who I was that close to came up to me and said "I heard about your mother, I'm sorry" ; it was only seven words but my mind heard it as "I know you are hurting" and my heart interpreted it as a "you're not alone", seven words was all it took for me to feel that someone cared. Classmates I had been really close too, tutored, studied with avoided it. Just seven words...
    OP, If you need to talk or vent feel free to PM me, I knowhow difficult it can be.
  9. by   traumaRUs
    I'm so sorry for these rude comments.
  10. by   Lil Nel
    I am very sorry regarding the seemingly rude comments about your mother and sister.

    I am going to suggest that some of the comments, such as, "did she eat a lot of sugar," have more to do with the speaker's own fear of developing breast cancer.

    Breast cancer is something I think most women do fear. And perhaps your friend is trying console herself, regarding her chances of developing the disease by suggesting it was brought about by diet, lack of exercise, not breastfeeding children, etc. (it won't happen to me, because I don't eat sugar. I exercise, you get the point).

    Yes, it is still a selfish perspective, but it is a coping skill for your friend.

    When my father died many years ago, when I was still in my 20s, I realized that well-meaning friends are sometimes not emotionally available.

    You can always come to this site for support, or perhaps a breast cancer support group.

    Best wishes. This is clearly a very difficult time for you.
  11. by   KelRN215
    I'll be honest, I'd just not share such personal information with such people in the future. It will be 16 years in February since I was first diagnosed with a brain tumor and as time has gone by, I've gotten MORE selective about who I share information about my health with. No one in my family knows that for the last 2 years, we've been watching a new spot in my left temporal lobe, that I have diabetes insipidus or that a few years ago I developed renal tubular acidosis from the medication I was on to control my headaches. I just can't deal with them with these things. Yesterday was the anniversary of the first time I found out about possible tumor recurrence 8 years ago. We were visiting my in-laws all weekend. My SO could tell something was wrong yesterday but it was a conversation I couldn't have with him. He doesn't get it and I especially can't deal with his family when it comes to that part of my life.
  12. by   KatieMI
    I am so sorry for what you and your family is going on (((hugs and a prayer)))

    I had to share with people parts of my medical history, as I have severe allergies and sometimes I have to explain why I do or don't do certain things. This sometimes causes responces which hardly would stand Ms. Manners' scrutiny. I was asked quite a few times something like "oh, so if you at some point want to commit suicide, you may just eat some of that and that will be that?" Plus, my foreign accent provokes questions which I feel as being intrusive and rude.

    With time, I grew up some hard skin of my own and came to conclusion that it is not my prime responsibility to be a sweetheart to everybody around. The fact that these people do not feel their own rudeness and "just curious" or "just want to say something" doesn't make their actions any more acceptable. So, with my clean consciousness, I politely (more or less, depending on circumstances) let them know that what they just said was NOT ok with me. Cold tone, stopping of eye contact, increasing body distance and clearly refusing to continue talk about the subject usually show where things are staying clearly enough.
  13. by   CelticGoddess
    I'm sorry you're going through this. I wish you and your family well.

    When my husband was diagnosed with cancer, I had co-workers tell me "hey, at least it's not a bad cancer"(it was testicular cancer, and he is now cancer free). I worked on an oncology floor. The comments bothered me a lot. I learned that I would just have to let it roll of my back. Unfortunately, I think sometimes people don't mean to be rude or callous but they don't know what else to say. I was fortunate enough to have a friend who would let me vent when I heard the comments.

    When I went through my own health crisis, I found out real fast who I could trust. It was that one lone friend who would listen to me vent without judgement. I started to keep my mouth shut except to her. If you have just that one person, it does help. Sometimes people don't think before speaking, don't understand how what they are saying is hurtful or are just callous.

    I wish you didn't have to go through the comments or the stress of dealing with a serious illness of a loved one.
  14. by   amoLucia
    Like others, I offer my sympathies and best wishes for your family and you.

    Several posters have commented that folk respond differently to devastating news. Might I bring up the possibility that you too may be experiencing a stage of 'grief and grieving' yourself.

    Kubler-Ross identified denial, ANGER, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. You've experienced a double whammy and may well be angry at those who prob didn't mean maliciousness thru their ignorance. But it hurts you and you're here at AN where things are safe.

    Some good comments were made, particularly being selective about sharing information. No need to continue being hurt. If you feel you've been zinged, distance yourself. In time, perhaps you might use the experience to inform the offender of the insensitivity you experienced.

    Again, best wishes to you.

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