Breast Cancer Awareness and Compassionate Listening

by Kristin Harrison, RMT
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I would like to acknowledge some thoughts that have been shared with me over the years while offering therapeutic touch to people living with cancer. My intention is that hearing these comments direct from the source may offer one some insight and compassion towards another’s point of view. These comments are not direct quotes but rather a collection of thoughts based on my personal experiences, and are not meant to speak for all people living with cancer. There is no judgment; these loving words are expressed with a higher purpose to create awareness.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, and honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around” ~Leo Buscaglia

Hearing that a loved one has cancer is a frightening and surreal moment. In the midst of emotions, one may not know what to say or how to react. The following are five statements that have been shared with me while offering Reiki and bodywork to people living with cancer.

1. Everything is going to be all right.

This doesn’t make me feel better. I know this may not necessarily be true and it just makes me feel dismissed and not heard.
What I really want to hear is that you’re going to be there for me through the good times and the bad, and that I am not going to go through this journey alone. Offer to help me so that I don’t have to ask you. I want compassion, not pity; comfort, not advice.

2. I am more than my cancer; please treat me kindly, not differently.

If you don’t know what to say, it’s okay not to say anything at all. Just offer the comfort of your presence, a hug, or an arm around my shoulders. Allowing some silence without rushing to fill it, gives me a chance to say what’s on my mind, in my own time.
I like to hear success stories, not horror stories. And please remember that I can always use a good laugh.

3. Please don’t assume that because you may think I look good, that I must be feeling better.

Unless you’ve been treated for the same type of cancer, have undergone exactly the same treatment, and have had the same response, you really don’t know how I feel.
You have no idea what it’s like, and it’s upsetting to me when you act like you do.
The sad truth is that my cancer can be progressive and I can still look fine.
What you may not know is that when I work, attend functions, and go about my life living with cancer, that I may spend a good deal of time preparing by taking extra naps or cutting out other activities.
Instead please ask me something like, “How are your mood and spirits holding up through this? This gives me a chance to tell you how I am feeling, if I choose to.

4. Congratulations, you’re done with your treatments!

As a caregiver or friend, you may feel excited when a course of treatment is done, but my feelings are much more mixed. During my treatment, I feel more so that I am taking action, and focusing on a solution. When my treatment is finished, I may feel anxious and uncertain – What’s next? What do I do now?

Instead, please give me a chance to express how I’m feeling. Or ask me “How are you feeling now that you’re finishing up with your treatments?” I need to know that you are not only listening to me, but that you hear me.

5. I want my caregiver to take good care of him/herself.

Thank you for being supportive and encouraging. Thank you for being there for me. Please take care of YOU! It’s ok – and I insist! – that you take time for yourself to see your friends, enjoy your hobbies, live YOUR life. Taking care of yourself allows you to be more present when you are with me, and I want you to know that I recognize that.

Additionally, here are some recommended sites worth checking out:
Please click daily to give Free Mammograms:

Local Support Groups, Education Meetings, and Free Screening Sites:

Kristin Harrison offers gentle and natural skilled therapeutic touch through Reiki and other holistic therapies within in Londonderry, NH.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, 50% of all “Think Pink” aromatherapy products will be donated to support breast cancer research. “Think Pink” is a soothing blend of lavender, geranium and sandalwood.
To learn more about Kristin, please visit or call 603-935-9261.

Healing Hands Chiropractic is a full-service family wellness center in Londonderry, NH offering prenatal & pediatric chiropractic care, acupuncture, cognitive-behavioral therapy, reiki & aromatherapy, massage therapy and birth classes.