msnbc.com
updated 10/19/2007 2:23:59 PM ET 2007-10-19T18:23:59

Words often have a way of tripping over each other when it comes to comforting someone with a serious illness. In response to a recent MSNBC.com story about the clumsy comments breast cancer can evoke, readers shared the best and worst things said to them as they've dealt with a life-threatening illness.

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When Sylvia of New York was battling breast cancer, she turned to a close friend for words of comfort. In a bungled attempt at the glass-is-half-full approach, the friend pointed out, "After all, you got to have plastic surgery."

"Yeah — I got this terrible disease only to have a reason to have plastic surgery," Sylvia writes.

But she writes that her husband knew exactly the right thing to say after they got the final pathology report back: "'I am happy that you will be around for a long time to come,'" she remembers him saying. "'Let's go get some ice cream.'

"That one comment made me feel reconnected," she writes.

Keep reading for more responses.

After my miscarriage, my brother insensitively blurted out "At least you didn't know it" and "Well, you can make another one".
— Anonymous

My co-worker said "Cancer is not a trial for you, it's a trial for the rest of us because we have to pick up part of your caseload."
— Nancy, Salt Lake City, Utah

While in the midst of a life-threatening bout of pancreatitis, a visitor told me how lucky I was, to be in an air-conditioned CCU room, as it was really hot outside.
— Marko, Utica, N.Y.

At 45 I was diagnosed with emphysema so severe I couldn't work, even with 24/7 oxygen. I was frightened and exhausted. I lost my job, had to liquidate my retirement savings for living expenses, was fighting SSI to get on disability, was using Medicaid (welfare) to get meds or see a doctor. And someone said to me "Gee, I wish I didn't have to go to work, like you." My reply cannot be printed here.
— Jody, Phoenix

A church leader said, "So you've got leukemia — so what? LIFE is terminal!" I was 42 years old at the time...
— Denise, Saint Clair Shores, Mich.

Perhaps not the worst thing but something that sure set me back on my heels. It was Christmas time when I received the diagnosis and I was feeling a bit morose. I told my adult son, "Gee — I hope I'm around for next Christmas," and he said, "Oh, you wouldn't go that fast, would you?"
— Karen, Phoenix

My poor sister-in-law, recovering from a mastectomy, had a guy come up to her at her church and ask her, "So which boob was it?"
— Anonymous

Worst action: Looking at my breasts to "spot the fake." Best words while bald: "You have such a cute head!"
— Rosemarie, Long Pond, Pa.

When I first started to lose my hair to chemo, I wore a black head scarf. My boss said to me: "Welcome, sister Mary Jane."
— Jane

Worst: "How can you be on chemo, you have all your hair?" I felt like I had to defend myself, I am on my 4th different chemo and have already lost all my hair and grown it back. Best: After my mastectomy, members of our boat club fed my family for a month so I didn't have to try to cook since my husband and son are both over the road truck drivers.
— Rose, Perryman, Md.

When it was time to discuss treatment options with my doctor, a good friend said "I'll go with you." While I was recovering from surgery a lady from church showed up at my door with a roast and said "I was thinking of you." Everyone who cares about me said "I'm praying for you."
— Cheryl, Redlands, Calif.

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