Life Advice


Health & Spirit

Small-town cancer patient tired of all the attention

Carolyn Hax on

Dear Carolyn:

I live in a small town, and am being treated for cancer. I'm an extremely private and sensitive person. I don't want pity or to have to explain my situation to people when they see the little hats I wear. In the beginning I'd just say, "I have a little cancer thing happening, it's all going to be fine, I'm fine." But now, the news has spread. The less I say, the more these folks want to know.

I have started staying in more even though I've responded very well to treatment, have not had nearly the side effects most have, am going to be fine, and feel well most days. I think about it all enough without having intrusive questions thrown at me when I want to go out socially -- how many more treatments, does it run in your family, how sick has it made you, what kind is it?

In fact, if I wanted to tell "my truth" (I don't) I'd say it's one of the best things that ever happened to me! I've handled it all well, and mostly alone except for a few close confidants who know details. It's taught me to see what really matters to me. It's brought back my natural self-confidence and boosted my creativity.

So, what do I say when people want to engage me for 20 minutes about something NOT their business? This is no way to treat someone who might, say, be out and about on her best day that week.

-- Not a Hermit!


Great point. I'll be quick with my feelings: I'm sorry; glad your treatment is going well; good for you!

Here's a script that'll work if you're merciless with it:

(1) "Thank you for your concern." They may just be nosy, but you'll like humanity a whole lot better if you give it the benefit of the doubt and assume its best intentions.

Then, (2) "It's tiring to talk about, though." This clear boundary is about you, not them, and shows them how they can help you -- without your having to specify, "By shutting up. Immediately."


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