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In our EndNotes column today, we answered a question about why people tell cancer horror stories to people going through cancer treatment. Or why they react in weird ways to cancer news. For instance, when my co-author, Catherine Johnston, confided in a colleague that she was taking several weeks off for cancer treatment, the woman replied, “I have news, too. I’m getting a new job!”

Cathy stood up and left the room.

The column is a good reminder (to me!) to listen better to all stories, especially those involving suffering. It seems like it's helpful to share a similar story (it conveys you know what they are feeling, etc.) but people about 99 percent of the time just want their story listened to.

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

Ask a question: Catherine welcomes questions about aging issues and grief. Email her at

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