What do you say when people ask?

Hi eveyone,


I am 27 and have just had a recurrence of BC (first diagnosed at 24, had mastectomy then too). I found out about the recurrence a few months ago and since the Dr. is very positive I am keeping quite calm. 

My question is daft but simple…how do you answer the “how are you?” question? Thus far (unless to close friends and family of course) i just say “fine thanks, how are you?”. I am not being treated with chemo (yet) and look actually ok physically so I think a lot of people assume that i feel ok. Not always the case but i’m not after sympathy so this doesn’t bother me. 

I am just finding it increasingly difficult to maintain this answer with some people (mainly at work, gym instructor (had to tell her because i have to ‘sit out’ a couple of sets due to nerve pain etc etc).

Just curious as to what you guys say in response to these questions? I just feel like i am burdening people with annoying/unwanted/depressing info if i tell them the truth or even mention in passing anything to do with my cancer when they ask the “how are you?” question as I appreciate that it often means the same as ‘hello’!. But i am very conscious that some people are very curious and even a bit intrigued because I never reveal too much and I know the “how has your week been” question is meant with kindness…

I’d be really interested in how people deal with this. Maybe i’m alone in finding this difficult or to even be thinking about something so relatively trivial by comparison but it is such a HUGE part of my life and I always think that surely they aren’t expecting me to respond with “yeah great, went out Fri and Sat, did this, did that”???


Thank you

Hi Kimberley,

this is one of the trickiest issues around in my experience!  a good friend of mine was having treatment at the same time as me - if people asked her how she was when she was mid treatment she just didn’t answer , she just talked about something else …her rationale being they really don’t want to know …and she didn’t want to pretend. I used to respond during treatment with something brief but realistic, so sometimes it was fine ta, sometimes it was rubbish etc. That was for aquaintances. For my real freinds I told them, and in full glory…and you know what, some of them couldn’t take it . In fact one couple I am much less close to as a result.

Part of me only saying briefly how I was to aquaintances was to protect myself - it was retraumatising me to go through some of my experiences ( I had a bad reaction to chemo) so I used to just minimise it for me as much as for them. Also if I thought people were getting a kick out of the nosyness questions I used to shut up.

My guess is you can only do what feels right on the day, and it may be different each time - but your well being is the most important thing - except for with kids and young people of course - with them I was always “OK, doing my treatment so that I can get better, the treatment makes me feel a bit rough sometimes , but it will be worth it in the end”.

best of luck,


Kimberley, so sorry to hear of your recurrence, and hope the chemo smashes the b****r to smithereens!!


That is a loaded question, isn’t it. “How are you?” Like most of you, it depends on who is asking it. Now the worst of my treatment is over (I’m on Anastrazole) I just say “Fine thanks” Although the husband of one neighbour came over with a very morose look on his face and spoke very slowly and deliberately (as if cancer makes you either deaf, or thick) saying how sorry he was, and went on to relate all the members of his family who had died of cancer of some kind!! I just looked at him and said “Actually, I consider myself to be cancer free right now!”


Wishing you well.

Poemsgalore xxx. 

I’d echo all the replies.


When I was asked, I invariably gave a brief but honest answer.  “Recovering well thanks”… “this is a good week, so I’m fine”… “had poison Monday, so this week is hard”    You work out who really wants to know, and who’s being polite.  you soon find out who you can be honest with… and some days, the friends I could really be honest with did me the favour of treating me normally, and telling me what was going on in THEIR lives, so I could get outside my tiny little world for a while, but they were sensitive enough to hear/see how I was first…


So sorry you’re going through the mill again…