Tracie Cone has always been a trailblazer. This award-winning journalist is the former California Newspaper Executive of the Year. She shares a Pulitzer Prize with fellow staff members at the Miami Herald for coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew and has twice been nominated individually. She has focused her writing on helping the underdog and empowering those without a strong voice of their own. Now she takes us on the fight of her life.
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What Not To Say (Again)

This bears repeating here because it seems that some people are idiots. I’m talking about what not to say to someone who has cancer or any other life-threatening disease.

I’ll relay something that happened Friday night at a party in my neighborhood. I was introduced to a guy who works in what I hope is a limited capacity in the cancer treatment center at Kaiser Hospital in Fresno. Someone thought we should chat because of our mutual circumstances, even though I wouldn’t have sought out a muscle-bound meathead for a conversation

This is how the conversation started.

“Oh, breast cancer. My cousin died of breast cancer two weeks ago. Hmmm. Let me think,” he said as he closed his eyes and pretended to engage his brain. “Yes, two weeks ago today.”

I was speechless. I wanted to tell him he was an idiot for saying that to me, but before I could he added this:

“Ya, she went through treatment a few years ago and they thought they had it. But it came back, and before she knew it the cancer had spread throughout her body. They put her right into hospice.”

What. A. Dick. I turned around and walked home. But that damned conversation has been rolling around in my bald head ever since.

I feel bad for her, but I know in my heart that’s not me. In fact, I already feel and think of myself as cancer free thanks to the wonderful treatment and trial drugs I’ve received and the lifestyle changes I have made.

For several weeks, without being really conscious of it, I have begun to think of cancer in the past tense.

The operations I’ll have this month are technicalities. The slow struggle to regain strength is the after-effect of the drugs that cured me. The 28 days of radiation that lie ahead will be a precaution.

Positive energy is everything to a cancer patient. So if you know someone who is going through this hell tell them they can do it, tell them about other people who have made it through and are living healthy lives, tell them you have a gut feeling they are going to be OK, or just tell them you’re thinking about them.

Or don’t say anything at all.

2 Responses to “What Not To Say (Again)”

  • Ann:

    Positive energy is everything. Period. Don’t waste any energy on negative energy of any kind. Positive energy is like the pebble thrown into the pond – it radiates outward in ever-widening circles. Case in point. Today, 10-10-10 is our 23rd anniversary – and if not for the connection of knowing Tracie, I may never have met my husband, Russ, a fellow reporter with her in NC. In another “positive energy” coincidence, last night I went to Chapel Hill to meet up with SOT sisters Vicky and Cindy and make sure they had some SOTS hats (Sisterhood of Tracie Supporters) to wear in support of Tracie as they ran in the Tarheel Trot 5k breast cancer awareness run today. Vicky’s son, David, a freshman and Patrick, my son, a sophomore, both said they would also run. Patrick, 20, wanted to know, “Did I ever meet Tracie?” Actually, no I said, she went west. “But, he said, if you didn’t know her, maybe I wouldn’t even be here!” Then we also realized that the picture we sent Tracie of all the SOTS was taken exactly 23 years ago. The circle widens. Pictures will be forthcoming of the race but I thought TODAY you needed to hear about the way positive energy, love and support transcends time and miles and generations.

  • rene brewer:

    Remember, Gretta says you don’t

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