Answering Tough Questions


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“Why do you limp?”

“Where did that scar come from?”

“Where’ve you been the past couple months?”

As you re-enter the real world after having cancer you’re faced with these benign questions that often lead to heavy and intense conversations that you might not want to have.

So how do I, as a seven-time cancer survivor, deal with these situations? I take the bull by the horns and right off the bat answer all the questions that they might possibly have and diffuse all possible interest. People are inherently curious, but once they find out what is actually going on with you, they’ll probably back off about it. You want to make sure to conclude everything with something positive. Cancer is an overwhelmingly negative experience. But when you’re having a conversation at the water cooler, you probably don’t want to get into all of those things.

“Hey, Woody, I noticed you limping, how come?”

“Well you see, two years ago I had my left leg amputated because of bone cancer. It initially started with a lingering pain in my knee that progressively got worse. I’m currently in remission now and my life is back to normal. It was kind of a wild experience going through all of it, but luckily I survived and now I’m back living my life the way I want.”

At this point most people are pretty blown away by your honesty. If I’ve found one thing it’s that people really don’t want to offend you, so at this point they would rather say nothing that risk saying something inappropriate. So they’ll most likely offer you bland encouragement and support.

“Oh, wow. Well congratulations, if you ever need anything let me know.”

To which you kindly respond, “Thanks so much, take care!”

Boom Shakalaka! You just diffused that situation like a boss. Congratulations.

Now back to work!



  1. Susan H. McIntyre says:

    I get questions about why I have trouble finding clothes. I had breast cancer and now my chest is flatter than my stomach. When discussing fashion with other women, I will use this as an example so that I don’t run into the pity response. I hate that look of pity – I am a warrior and still here!

    1. LIVESTRONG says:

      AMEN! Here’s some info we have about body image after cancer. There is a resource listed here that talks about shopping for your body type called “Shop Well With You”. Hope it is helpful:

  2. Carole says:

    I have stage iv breast cancer with bone metastases. Ibroke my back from a two inch tumor. I have severe bone pain. I am embarrassed to have to walk with a cane. At age 41 i get alot of stares. Wish there was a way to explain without going into all the details. People have been aviding me since they found out.

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