When someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, most of us struggle with what words to say. We are shocked and saddened, and just imagine being the person who just received the diagnosis. Today we give a few hints to help you help your friend or loved one.
The first thing is that you might be surprised a how your friend or loved one reacts to the news. Some may not want to talk at all about it, and for others, that is all they want to talk about. Expect the unexpected. Some people have a strong coping mechanism to draw on, and others will fall apart. Most people with a cancer diagnosis are somewhere in the middle.
What not to say to someone with a cancer diagnosis
- Don’t make it about you, or compare it with something you have been through.
- Don’t force it if they don’t want to talk. Let them know you are available to listen when they want to talk
- Limit saying things that might sound falsely positive like “I am sure you will be fine”. People with cancer hear that all the time, and to many it sounds like a script, and minimizes their feelings. Better to say something like “We will fight this thing together. You are not facing this alone.”
- Likewise, don’t be pessimistic. Avoid saying “It could be worse…” because for the person with cancer, it is probably the worst thing they can imagine.
- Don’t leave when things get tough. If they are angry or afraid, let them tell you, and unload on you. Ask them how you can them with their fears.
What to say to someone with a cancer diagnosis
- Say you you feel. Are you thinking of them? Tell them. Are you sorry they are going through this? Say so. Don’t know what to say? Here are a few things you can say that might help.
- Are you ok with visitors?
- Is there anyone else you want me to contact?
- This must be a hard thing to go through.
What you can do
- Actively listen to them, and encourage them to continue if you sense that is what they need.
- Offer to care for their pets or children.
- Help them with household chores, run errands for them, or with taking care of their yard.
- Offer transportation to take them to appointments, or to the store.
- Offer to make dinners for them. Be definite with your offer, with something like “I will bring you lasagna tomorrow night if that is ok with you.”
Above all, be compassionate.
Finally, you might look at this page from the American Cancer Society, which gives lots of more good hints to help you.
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