what to say to people when they offer ... - Breast Cancer Haven

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what to say to people when they offer unsolicited advice


I don't want to make my Cancer a secret. I'm not ashamed of it. But I find if I admit it (because maybe I'm tired, and I don't have the stamina I used to) people immediately and universally offer unsolicited advice, i.e. "Why don't you just. . . go to Mexico and get unapproved treatments? or cure it with juice diets? or take cannibis? or cure it with Vitamin C? or unload the things you feel bitter about? or pray on it? or see my sister's doctor, he's really great? Why don't you get a 2nd opinion? Why are you having chemo/radiation/surgery? Why don't you change your diet? " etc. etc. etc. I had a certain young person tell me that she is a "healer"

I DON'T WANT ANY OF THIS ADVICE. How do I nicely, completely and absolutely shut it down? I'm really tired of people doing this to me, as I don't want anyone to advise me who hasn't seen my charts, mammograms, scans, blood tests etc., I don't care if they do think they are "healers." I get that this is coming from their own vague discomfort with my illness - but it has made me almost completely solitary of late. I have a partner, 2 family members and 2 friends I can talk to. I pretty much avoid everything else that isn't mandatory (like my work).

17 Replies

I too got fed up with this! In the end I used to cut them off really quickly and just tell them directly. I told them I had a really good doctor and had decided to follow their treatment plan to the letter. I just kept reminding myself they were trying to help. You have enough to do as it is. All the best with your treatment.

I used to be more direct about cutting them off, but sometimes if I think I am going to cry all I can think of is trying to get out of there fast - - I hate the implication that I'm too stupid to manage my own care and the assumption that if I got Cancer it must be because I was too stupid to eat right or exercise more. . . I know, I shouldn't let it bother me - especially if they are total strangers, but it really stresses me

I know exactly what you mean, I now just smile sweetly, say thank you and ignore them. Unfortunately it is very hard for people to really understand and most advice comes from a desire to offer a solution and help. I am 2 years on and everyone (except my close friends and family) takes it for granted that I’m fully recovered and I just let them. X


Hi Msmuffintop

It really is extremely frustrating as you are not even asking for their advice!

All you can say is you have a Treatment Plan in place that your happy with.........

The worst l found was when they want to tell you about friends, colleagues, people you don’t know who’ve had BC & are now walking backwards up Mount Everest 2weeks after Chemo, well not exactly but you know what l mean!......

Wishing You All The Best 🍀


When it comes to illness everyone's an expert. So say " Are you a highly qualified oncologist with a special interest in breast cancer? No? Oh sorry would rather listen to professional advice"

Or stop at oncologist as they probably don't know what word means.

Sorry that sounds harsh doesn't it. Just makes me mad.

We all like supportive friends and family and know they mean well but if so I think its ok to say. "Saying this stuff does not help me"

UGHHH if only I could write a book on this topic!

First, I want to validate your feelings by sharing that you are not alone, you are right to feel frustrated, and you are not cruel for wanting to shut them up.

When I was first diagnosed nearly 8 years ago, like you, I didn't necessarily feel the desire to share my condition. I wanted to spend time learning and researching as much as I could, free from outside influence. Inevitably, word got out and the well-intentioned, but unsolicited, advice started rolling in like a bad storm. I was not sure how to handle it and my responses varied depending on my pain level. Nearly 8 years later, I have now battled 7 times, 5 different types of cancer (2 recurrent.) Social media has blown up in that time and 'Fakebook' is the worst for many of us battling! Even when you haven't shared your diagnosis on social media, others will take it upon themselves to do it for you! UGHHH!

I know they mean well, but I have been inundated with all you mentioned. I've come home to find on my front porch: miracle water, miracle crystals, miracle juices, miracle pills, miracle fruits, and of course, many GIANT bags of miracle kale ( I swear some folks think kale wears a superhero cape!) I have been told I should be more active, less active, and that an acquaintance has a best friend whose grandmothers neighbor (who has never met me) feels my energy and she thinks I need more balance, (if you knew me you would know FOR SURE that I am rolling my eyes big time on that one!) I've heard my diet is wrong: too many carbs, too much protein, too many solids, need more juices, stop drinking juices, cut out dairy, and drink more milk. I've been told I need to: be more vocal supporting cancer causes, wear ribbons, that's the wrong ribbon, join our walk, lead our walk, must lead a fundraiser, don't I know I am inspirational and MUST share so others can be fulfilled, and (my personal favorite) I am encouraging suicide by choosing to end a particular treatment.

The folks who want to tell me why I have cancer are always a joy too. I won't list all the absurd theories but I will share that I was told my sadness after my moms death 4 years ago coincided with a recurrence so now I can die to be with her. I wish this list was all a joke but every single one is true, and I could add many more.

Certainly not an expert, but I have had time in the past 8 years to learn a few things.

1. This is my battle/journey/cross to bear, not theirs!

2. They mean well, but they are OUT OF LINE.

3. I am not mean for creating healthy boundaries.

4. I am not cruel for stating those boundaries very clearly.

5. You may have been the social butterfly in your town prior to your diagnosis, but now it is imperative that you close your circle down to only a few people you can ABSOLUTELY trust.

6. Even within that 'small circle of trust', have a written list of rules that include, first and foremost, CONFIDENTIALITY. If they are the right people for your inner-circle, they will totally understand and support why this is important.

7. I have a clear, concise reply for people giving all the expert advice. I have rehearsed my concise reply several times with someone in my inner-circle until it easily flows off my tongue like syrup (although I am certain someone has told me syrup is evil.)

8. I am from Texas. My above-mentioned singular response to all the well-intentioned "experts" giving unsolicited advice begins and ends with, "Bless your heart..."

9. Smile when you say it.

I pray this helps.

Oh and hey... you should try some kale.


Hahaha omg, i was told a long time ago that I could say anything if i said it with a smile and a comma, between “bless your heart” and my retort. You are right. It is the best lead to any reply ever 😊

This is a huge issue that I had when diagnosed. Like you, I got totally and utterly fed up with it all. So, being the tactless and less tolerant individual that cancer has made me... well actually, I need to reword that... having had a major reality check that life, is just so short and precious, that we are here for a good time and not always for a long time, I decided to deal with this issue directly as it did get me down. I even had people bringing me leaflets, lotions, potions, holy water etc, etc etc.... when one very persistent individual, went on to mention for the umpteenth time that I needed to go into a hyperbaric chamber, eat grass and smoke weed, I finally cracked! I replied with “Look, thank you for your constant advice, your knowledge is outstanding and I am sure if you speak to my oncologist, he will offer you a position on his team to plan out all my treatment... oops, hold on, you are not a doctor, oncologist, oncology nurse or even a cleaner in an oncology unit are you? When you have trained, passed copious amounts of exams and proven your treatments work then get back to me. In the meantime, please stop with all the quackery and let my oncologist do his job and allow me to use my own intellectual ability when it comes to choosing whether I go the proven treatment route or the quackery route, your advise is not what I want or need right now and it is seriously getting me down... now, do you want that coffee or do you want to leave if you feel offended?” I had an apology and a hug and we remained friends, until it happened again, then I cut ties and decided from that day to this, I only want positive energy and people in my life. Whatever is to be will be, in the meantime, I am going to make the most of every day, with those who love and support me. Good luck, sometimes it takes us to be direct to the point of rudeness before people listen. Chin up and keep on keeping on, on your road. It is hard but you will do it xxxxxxxx

yup. I have cut ties with most. . .

Hi msmuffintop wow! That’s a lot of replies! I’ll share my experiences and I’ll try to be brief lol.

The immediate response I got to my comment that I had a recent cancer diagnosis was “What type of cancer do you have?”. Due to unhealthy, unsolicited & vast amounts of attention to that part of my anatomy in my formative years I am / was very very sensitive about it & never wanted to say. Plus I genuinely believe I considered that piece of information to be private.

I found the following to come automatically to me in response: “Do you have to know?” & lo! 99% of the time people backed off and sometimes apologised! I got so good at pushing back that I even became sarcastic on occasion!

I still don’t talk about my anatomy. Instead, having now ‘come out’ about having cancer & treatment, I say oh yes I’m happy to talk about my cancer and it’s treatment but we don’t talk about my anatomy.

I too believe you can say anything & the tone will make whatever impact you want to achieve. So I have learned to smile and be gentle and kind and where possible shame & embarrass people. And my favourite response is rudeness which I revert to whenever I feel like it. I do enjoy the feeling of empowerment that gives.

So my best advice is to combine honesty with a challenge (or two) with a pinch of attempted humiliation, a tablespoon of sarcasm and a good old dollop of rudeness. Oh and always raise your voice.

Or my favourite advice is this. Hell girl say what you want. Life is just too short to pussy foot around.

Sending lots of love xxxx

Oh the hard part for me is trying not cry when they say things like (I swear I don't make this stuff up) A former yoga student contacted me and said she worked with Cancer patients healing them. That we get Cancer because we are people who have unresolved conflict. If I want to tell her what my problems are, she can help me get better. ****Her whole analysis of what causes Cancer ticked me off.**** I told her to stop exploiting emotionally vulnerable people. I explained to her that EVERYBODY has unresolved conflicts, but that people near death start mulling over that stuff to a greater degree - - it most def did not CAUSE my Cancer. I pointed out that even some dalai llamas have had Cancer. I also reminded her that since everyone dies, eventually, there was no merit to her treatments. End result: she points out that I'm no dalai llama but if I'm ready to die, that's on me for willfully misunderstanding her.

another time I came into a yoga studio and the lady at the counter asked how I was doing. I said some days are better than others, but that today, I was having a rough day. She proceeded to school me on my diet. Admonishing me that when I was "ready" (her word not mine) when I was ready to get better then she could tell me what I should be eating. Wow. She didn't even ask me what my diet was before assuming I made myself sick with poor eating habits.

Another time I attended a meditation group and one of the participants told me she was a "healer," and that I shouldn't be taking chemo. This before she even knew what kind of Cancer I had or if I was recommended to take chemo (which I wasn't). I started to explain to her the difference between radiation and chemo since she clearly didn't know, but then I changed my tack and said, "You're just uncomfortable with my disease." She said no she wasn't, she was just upset that because her brother's former girlfriend had ignored her advice the former girlfriend has died.

It all seriously makes me want to run away and hide.

Oh bless you sweetheart you seem to be on the receiving end of everyone’s personal issues with their own health / life / perception of cancer. Such people are so clearly over involved in themselves.

It’s YOUR cancer and it should be all about you.

Are you in the uk?

Ye gods if people spoke like that to me I’d tell them to get their head out of their own a**e, take a course on communication and basically f**k off until that’s done then come back and f**k off again.

Am I bad?

Ooh! And I’ve just thought of another one start with

“Look I know you only mean well but..........”.

We all have enough to deal with with the treatments, we don’t need to take on board other people’s stuff.

Oh my darling I am so sorry you are in this position.

Hopefully you have gained some comfort from this forum and do do please keep posting. Here we empathise, sympathise, share and support and you can always speak your mind.

Wishing you some peace soon much love xxx

You are not alone in having "contracted cancer because of your unresolved conflicts"... ME TOOOO!

Seriously these people are idiots! Between my 'unresolved conflicts causing cancer,' 'wishing cancer onto myself from being sad after my mom died,' and (I really love this one) 'my cancer came from my dead ancestors who were in conflict with a neighboring village.' WTH!!!!!!

Sharpen your Cutco knives; you'll continue to cut people out throughout the whole ordeal (bless their hearts.) And when you are well, you will know for sure who your true friends are. Shake the rest off!!

Yup. Last night I was ready for them - - I was asked what kind of Cancer I had, and I said "Oh! I am really not comfortable talking about it." and then I said, "wow, I think I'm going to cry," and they magically shut up.

I don't want to do that every time, but it sure beats the lecture on unresolved conflicts.

I had also heard, years ago, from a Louise Hay book that breast Cancer is caused by heartache, specifically a bitter divorce. I didn't think much of it at the time- - but then I met a friend's aunt who had breast Cancer. In my mind I was thinking "Wow - and she had the worst divorce ever" I am SO GLAD I never said anything aloud to her. well of course I didn't. Even when I was stupid, I wasn't mean. . .

WHAT IN THe WORLD!! If Louise Hay said that, she's an idiot... bless her heart. LOL

My story is slightly different, at the place where I worked they were all over me when I was going through treatment, how are you feeling etc, the minute I went back I wasn't allowed to mention the word cancer even though it became part of my life, I felt very excluded from everything, but thankfully after 2 1/2 yrs i found a new job, yes the word cancer is mentioned at times but I'm never told to shut up and move on. 18/12 ago I was registered blind (nothing to do with the cancer,) someone I've known for 40 yrs doesn't deal with anything medical and her attitude towards me indicates she thinks I can see the nose on my face and nothing more despite me telling her i've got fairly decent vision in one eye, going back to the cancer it's left me with Lymphoedema in both breasts following a recent check up I said my arm where I've had complete node clearance aches at times as I carry shopping bags more than I used to when I was driving so I've got a compression sleeve just for comfort purposes, consequently I'm dreading the next time I see this person as she will go on about it and the the sleeve, not the person, and i will be walking on eggshells watching what I say about my health issues everything I meet up with her

I appreciate the replies I've gotten here - - This has been a very enlightening thread. and I think I am gonna go with some muted form of "shut the f**k up," the next time I get unsolicited advice from anyone who is offering straight qwackery and some form of "bless your heart" if they seem like they mean well, (you know, the kind that just want you to use the doctor their sister or mum used even if sis and mum don't even have the same kind of Cancer you have. . . ) and I guess the Run and Hide tactic if it is someone who thinks my past life/unresolved conflict caused this disease

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