Actress Kathy Bates tweets news of her breast cancer diagnosis, treatment

After some four month of silence on Twitter, Kathy Bates returned to share news that she was diagnosed with breast cancer two months ago, and has undergone a double mastectomy. I felt an extra-strong twinge of sadness when I read Twitter replies from her fans wishing her a "speedy recovery." I get that line a lot, too. There's no such thing.


  1. re: ” I felt an extra-strong twinge of sadness when I read Twitter replies from her fans wishing her a “speedy recovery.””

    They mean well by it. It’s a situation where one often times does not know what to say.

    1. Well of course they do, and this is not news to me. Not questioning their motivation. Just recognizing that there is no easy or “speedy” way out of this shit.

      Well-meaning people say a lot of missed-mark things to people with cancer. You get used to it.

      I wish they were right, on this one.

      1. Interestingly wishing someone a “speedy recovery” comes from the Jewish tradition of wishing the sick a “refuah shlema”, which is commonly translated as a “speedy and complete recovery.”

      2. Then there’s the distance of celebrity.  I have someone very close to me with cancer and I can be supportive and helpful in an intimate way which fans can’t.  People following KB on Twitter can’t drive her to appointments or be with her when things are bad.  There’s a “Get well soon!” quality to the Twitter relationship. 

        Also, fucking cancer.  Fuck that shit.

      3. You’re right, there isn’t. But once you’re clear and years have passed, you and those closest to you will thankfully look back at the struggle as a painful dot in the rear view mirror.

        Rather than wish you a speedy recovery, I’ll just say that I hope your recovery is on schedule. My wife’s was (just about).

      4. Whether you can actually achieve a speedy recovery is irrelevant, just as it is whether a “nice day” is possible when a person wishes you one. We all wish for things we can’t have, and I can’t imagine cringing when someone offers me well wishes.

        They were, after all, wishing for you what you wish (“I wish they were right, on this one.”) for yourself.

    2. When you don’t know what to say you can just say “it’s better than a sharp stick in the eye!” or “at least you’re still alive” or “at least they didn’t remove your arms and legs”.   These are actually good for almost any situation, good or bad.  Silence is also an option.

      1. Now, all of those offend me. who are you to say cancer is better than a sharp stick in the eye? And wow, “at least you’re still alive”?!? “at least they didn’t remove your arms and legs”?!?  Seriously?!?

        Yes, silence is a good option, as is, “I don’t know what to say.”

    3. Some people have a horrible time with the illness, some recover relatively quickly.

      I’ve lost a few people to it, and I actually think a speedy recovery is one of the nicer, more earnest things to be said – and relatively speaking it definitely does exist

  2. She was treated for ovarian cancer (which has poor survival rates due to delayed diagnosis) nine years ago.

  3. I think the right thing to say, when someone tells you they have cancer, is hard to figure out.  But whatever a person says, it is good to follow that up with a concrete offer of help because a person fighting cancer can often really use someone to walk the dog, or weed the garden, or whatever.  And a ride to and from chemo is a godsend for some people.

    I personally think finding out that a friend has cancer is an appropriate time for creative profanity followed by hugging and tears and then some very black humor.  And more tears.  Then, like I said, time to sign up to be support staff.

    1. Rides to treatments. Yes. That is something I always have trouble asking for and need desperately. I’m single, and receive treatment an hour and a half’s drive (each way) from home.

  4. Karen,  spot ON!  when i found out I was about to go one testicle lighter, and have a few nice rounds of deadly chemicals pumped through me?    Swearing, hugging, and lots of HUMOR.

    Xeni?  totally right  “get well soon” does not come close, but if a person has not experienced big-C up close?  they have no clue what to say.   

    When one of my pals now tells me  “Oh F$cK, I have cancer, what now?”  I offer to buy drinks!    which leads to?  hugging, swearing, and so on…

    cancer sucks

  5. Honestly, I’ve found people who’ve had cancer to be more problematic to deal with in many cases.  They immediately tell you all the things you “need to know”, even though cancer research has made constant improvements to treatment plans and outcomes and thus their hard-won knowledge is almost always out of date.  And they worry that you’re not handling it the way they did, so of course that’s wrong somehow.

    People who don’t have personal experience with cancer give you that pitying face and say something like “I’m so sorry” but then if you deflect the conversation right away they’re fine with moving on too.

    But yeah, as so many have already mentioned: food, child care, household chores, running errands….there are a lot of really good ways to help without wallowing in “oh, I’m so sorry for you”.  Doesn’t matter what you say….it’s what you DO to help that matters.

  6. Xeni…

    What responses are helpful when a female friend or relative announces that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer? Are different responses appropriate if they come from men vs women?

  7. With your inner circle, you know them well and can know exactly what they want/need to hear.  You can feel how they’re REALLY taking it and what they really need right then.  If it’s someone in your own city, you can offer some sort of actual favor to help them out.  But for someone you aren’t close enough geographically to genuinely offer any help or close enough to friendshipwise that they would actually accept the offer, what should you say? 
    Sometimes silence feels sort of inappropriate.  You don’t want to just stand there when someone tells you they’ve got cancer and just swap your conversation to something else like you didn’t even hear it.  Even when it’s someone you have only a wee little connection, if they felt like sharing it, you feel like you ought to respond to that somehow.  You don’t want someone to post about their cancer diagnosis and then there be no comments, like everyone’s ignoring them.  And yeah, wishing them a speedy recovery like they have the flu or a broken wrist isn’t right on.  But you don’t want it to sound too dismal either.  You don’t want to make it sound like funeral sympathy type of response. A Breaking Bad joke sort of feels like it would be home run some of the time, but if I misjudge that, it wouldn’t just be a little bit of a miss, but come off really horrible.   The best thing I’ve come up with lately is something like “They’re doing great things with treatment lately, getting better all the time.  Here’s hoping…” segueing into a quick change of topic .  I know that’s lame.  But I’ve got nothing better. 

  8. i plan on starting a blog wherein i take it upon myself to police imperfect expressions of concern and sympathy.  

  9. The treatment protocols ARE becoming less horrible. My Mom had BC 11 years ago, and she went through month of horrific chemo (including adriamycin) and skin-burning radiation. She also, as a result of being in Pittsburgh and easy access to the Hillman Cancer Center, was in the protocol to determine whether Herceptin was effective against BCs with her gene markers; fortunately, she was in the group that got the real drug (as she was later told), and she’s now an 11-year survivor with no signs of recurrence.

    My aunt was recently diagnosed with the SAME type of cancer and same markers. Her treatment includes several weeks of milder, target radiation, Herceptin, and four OPTIONAL chemo treatments that she chose to take just to be safe.

    Things ARE getting better and faster. It’s not unreasonable to offer ANYONE a speedy and relatively easy recovery; to suggest otherwise is churlish, as though those of us who haven’t had BC (and believe me, I was DEEPLY upset by my Mom’s diagnosis and treatment) have no right to say ANYTHING to patients.

    (Edited to correct details of my aunt’s treatment regimen.)

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