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What should I say to overly-curious friends? What should I say to overly-curious friends?

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Unread 04-21-2004, 03:36 PM
What should I say to overly-curious friends?

I had a TAH/BSO and lymph node removal on 3-16-04. I think I am one of the lucky ones on this list, since my diagnosis is Stage Ia, Grade 1 adenocarcinoma of the uterus, with no spread, no lymph node involvement, and no further treatment for now. However, I have told some of my closest friends, who have supported me through my surgery and continue with their support during my recovery. And many thanks to all of you on this list who have supported me and other Sisters as we deal with this very emotional situation! My heart goes out to all on this list who are dealing with radiation, chemo, and more operations and procedures – I feel like such a wimp by comparison.

What I am dealing with now, as I return to work, are all the probing questions from my female acquaintances about all the gory details of my hysterectomy, diagnoses, why did I had to have surgery?, what were my symptoms?, was it cancer?, etc. etc. I have only recently come to grips with the idea that I had/have cancer, and I don’t feel ready to be grilled. By the way, my male friends just wish me well and let it go at that. But the women; they seem more concerned for themselves than for me (which I guess is understandable). I really think all of their questions boil down to: “How is it possible that a seemingly healthy person, such as yourself, can be blindsided by cancer? And if YOU can get it, how about me?” I am more worried about THEM getting “cancerhead” than me. I don’t want people to think I am going to die at any moment, and thus remove me from the pool of people who could be promoted, etc.

Do you ladies, who have more experience in dealing with this, have any suggestions for me? I don’t want to be rude, but it is getting pretty annoying. I just want to get along with my recovery and resume my life. Cancer has given me a much more realistic outlook on what is really important, and I don’t want to ruin it by being honkerblonked-off.

Thanks, and HUGS to you all !!
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Unread 04-21-2004, 03:50 PM
What should I say to overly-curious friends?


I had a TAHBSO and lymph node removal also for ovarian CA. Regarding my coworkers, I didn't want them to know at first (I work at the hospital where I am treated at and had the surgery), plus I work in the medical transcription department and I knew that some of them might come across my notes and be nosy. When I came back to work, I simply told them the bare facts of what happened (since I work in a medical field, they understood anyway). I had a few really nosy people, though, who would say things like, "You mean you are working part time now? Gee, it must be nice," or "I bet you have a huge scar." When they would say these things, I would simply stop, let a huge pause go by and say, "Excuse me -- what did you say?" and make them repeat it -- then it sounded stupid to them. After a few times, they eventually stopped asking me intrusive questions unless I volunteered information. It is nobody's business but your own and if you don't feel like giving them details or if they say stuff like "Well, you sure LOOK good," I simply would say, "I wish I felt as good as you think I look."

I hope this is of some help to you -- I know this is tough. Remember that we understand here at Hystersisters and if you need to vent, we are here.


Unread 04-21-2004, 05:07 PM
What should I say to overly-curious friends?

Hi Brenda,

I know that this is can be difficult and even emotional at times but I was basically in the same situation. I teach in a private nursery school and we are all women around the same age there.

My diagnosis and surgery came as a big shock to all of us. One minute we were on spring vacation and the next I was calling them to say that I would be out for 6 weeks due to surgery and possible ovarian cancer.

Everyone was soo soo wonderful and supportive during my recovery that I could not have asked for a more wonderful group of colleagues. When I came back to work, yes, the questions did start and you know what,,,I did not mind.

Everyone was truly interested and concerned just as I would have been had it happened to someone else. They wanted to know my symptoms and all the gory details, as you put it.

In my opinion, if I helped just one person or put someones mind at ease, then my mission was completed. And by the way, during my whole chemo ordeal, everyone of them had something of value to offer.

Please do not take their questioning personally. I do feel that women are truly interested.

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Unread 04-21-2004, 05:56 PM
What should I say to overly-curious friends?

If it seems right, you might say.. "Sorry, I'm feeling sensitive about things still... Can we talk about it some other day?"

I'm tempted sometimes to talk about things at work.. but the person whose place I took temporarily has been thru the surgery in the past and I'm afraid to touch the issue or raise cancerhead in my co-workers too, so I will probably never say anything.
Unread 04-21-2004, 06:39 PM
What should I say to overly-curious friends?

I don't have a problem talking with anyone about my experience. I figured that you never know who is dealing with what in their lives. So many people have helped me.

Frankly, I stopped wearing my wig (at home and work) while the weather was still warm last year. There was a day or two of shocked looks but after that everyone got used to it. Not acknowledging my bald head was kind of like trying to ignore the elephant in the middle of the room.

If anyone was curious and had questions, I answered them honestly. What I've been through was hard. If one of my co-workers has a friend or relative who is going through something like this, I can share my experience and let them know what happened to me. I even had the opportunity to recommend Hystersisters to a friend of one of my co-workers.

I have to tell you, too, of a really great experience. My boss (who works out of our Chicago office) always seemed somewhat restrained when I talked about my treatments and how I was doing. Well, some months ago, well after my treatment was over, she shared with me that she had a sister-in-law who battled cancer, went through chemotherapy and unfortunately, passed away about two years from her initial diagnosis. She suffered many debilitating side effects. (I think she had lung cancer.)

She was so impressed when she saw how well I was doing, and how I've responded to the treatment and recovered to full health. She never asked about the details (like scars or side effects). My barometer with her was if it was going to impact my performance, I told her.

I think that's it. You've got to determine your own comfort zone about answering questions. What's easy for you might not work for me and vice versa.

Good luck to you. I hope the rest of your recovery goes smoothly.
Unread 04-22-2004, 03:52 AM
What should I say to overly-curious friends?

Hi, Brenda,

I have always believed that I was very lucky to have received excellent treatment for my endometrial cancer, which was a lot more advanced than yours and required a radical hysterectomy and both internal and external radiation. I therefore felt that I wanted to make sure that other women were as as fortunate in being able to receive prompt, quality care from experienced gynecologic oncologists, should they ever find themselves in a situation similar to mine at some point down the road.

When I returned to work after surgery, I freely answered any of my male or female coworkers' questions. I figure the male coworkers have wives, mothers, sisters and daughters who might have similar problems at some point in the future. Of course, this is something your female coworkers would be more interested in hearing about because of the possibility that it could affect them directly. I felt talking about my cancer journey helped me as much as it helped to educate others.

I too was the last one anyone expected to get cancer; I was at the gym lunchtime most days, not overweight, did not smoke or drink, ate well and otherwise was in great physical shape. Cancer is very common (one out of two men and one out of three women will get cancer in their lifetime). The reality of life is that healthy people get cancer too. I figured if Lance Armstrong could get cancer with the fantastic physical shape he was in, it could hit anyone.

Since my diagnosis in April 1999, I have been committed to educating women about endometrial cancer. I believe there is so little information in the media and elsewhere on endometrial cancer that both women and their physicians need to be educated about this disease. More and more women are dying each year from this disease in recent years. Because I believe that information is power, I will talk to anyone about my endometrial cancer experience and answer any reasonable questions they have. I don't recall ever being asked a question I found unreasonable, but if I was, I would find a way to tactfully (or not so tactfully) deal with it.

Of course, this is just me, and we each have our own personal styles, agendas and ways of relating and coping. As the others before me have said, you have to find what gives you the greatest level of comfort and works best in your particular situation.

Good luck and good health.

Unread 04-22-2004, 10:30 AM
Do What Makes You Comfortable

If you aren't comfortable openly discussing the cancer or answering questions, a general answer such as "This is still sensitive for me and I prefer not to discuss specificis; however, the doctor is extremely optimistic as am I" will do. Remember, there is no right or wrong way-it's what's comfortable for us. As for me, I was very open about it, answering questions, assuring coworkers I was't going to be dead in a few months, and telling them facts, etc. I think it helped a lot of them. I was extremely surprised I was like this--that's not me at all. You do and say what makes you comfortable.
Unread 04-22-2004, 12:58 PM
I talked...

I have been through the same experience as you have. I was surprised when I was diagnosed and it was the furthest thing from my mind. When I knew I had to have surgery, I told my staff the facts as I knew them (I have all male staff). They did not push for any kind of details and I think the whole idea of it made them uncomfortable. For my family, I was more concerned about how they might worry and did everything possible to downplay and make it positive.

After surgery, and throughout the recovery, if anyone asked, I told. I agree with many of the sisters that it is an opportunity to educate. If the situation provides that opportunity, I will take it. I don't get on a soap box about it, but I will tell them the things to watch out for and what to do if anyone suspects it's a possibility. I have found, the more I talk about it (in a constructive way), the easier it is for me, and for them. I haven't had the really gory details sort of questions, but I will say, I've provided some gory detail answers. (Mostly to men who have said "doesn't every old lady get a hyst?). Yeah, I got that one from my boss...

I have also found that it is a healthy part of acceptance and coming to terms with things. That can be a very empowering experience. People need to see that you can be dx with cancer and live to talk about it!!! Hopefully, it will take away some of the stigma and people will be more likely to get checked and catch things early. When you feel ready to talk about it, go for it.
Unread 04-22-2004, 03:54 PM
What should I say to overly-curious friends?

WOW!! I am so grateful to all of you who answered my question with such thoughtful responses. I had hoped for some insight from you who have been down this road before me, and you gave me so much more than I had expected. Though, while perusing this list over the last month or so, I have learned to respect and love each and every one of you as you have shared your stories and advice to help others.

I now feel much more comfortable returning to work and being able to interact with my co-workers in a kind way, even though their questions may sometimes seem too intrusive. I expect that as I get more used to the idea of having cancer, I’ll be more tolerant and can use my new-found knowledge and experience to help others who have someone they love dealing with cancer. I think I myself haven’t quite recovered from the shell shock of diagnosis, surgery and recovery, all in a few short weeks.

Thanks, and HUGS to all of you !

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