What to say to someone with cancer

It’s horrible news.

It takes you out of your comfort zone.

Your easy relationship of the past has gone.

Suddenly all the rules have changed.  Your friend could be dying.  Suddenly you don’t know what to say.

Big C is in the room.

But have the rules changed?  

Has your relationship altered?

Does your friend feel different about you?

Of course, the fact is that nothing has changed.  Your friend had cancer before he or she told you about it, before they themselves knew.

The only thing that has changed is your comfort level.

Get over it.

I was speaking with someone with cancer last night, in fact, she was going in for some more chemo today.

When she was first diagnosed, eight years ago, she said the most marvellous thing that happened was that three male friends of hers rang her and told her they loved her.

One of them (I’m proud to say) was my dad – who went to school and university with her husband.

She has carried that with her in the eight years since.

So if you are in any doubt as to what to say to someone diagnosed with cancer, the lesson I’ve learned is to ring them, and tell them that they are loved by you.

As Patrick Dodson, WA Senior of the Year said – “I don’t know what the questions are – but I know the answer is love.”

10 Replies to “What to say to someone with cancer”

  1. Great post, it certainly makes me think.
    I work in oncology and palliative care and always thought I knew what to say, that is until my best friend was recently diagnosed.
    I now try to do and say the things that I would like done and said to me if the tables were turned.

  2. My son will be hit his two year anniversary of completing his chemo this summer. With testicular cancer – the two year mark is the celebrating mark. Of course, there are no guarantees in this life.

    And I love your advice. Don’t be afraid to talk to cancer patients. Ask them about it. Ask them about their treatment. Tell them what a hero they are to you. Just be there.

  3. I had cancer last year & your advice is absolutely spot on.

    Too many of us don’t know what to say & thus say nothing – worst thing possible!

    A seemingly small thing like ‘I love oyu’ is powerful & helpful.

  4. As a four year breast cancer survivor, I’ve been on the receiving end of some well meaning words which left me feeling that nobody understood what I was going through. A year ago, my friend and a fellow survivor, created a small line of cancer recovery greeting cards, Kimo Kards, so that cancer patients would hear encouraging words. Our slogan is Created by Survivors, for Survivors. There are no somber cards here with bald women. All are inspiring and some are funny. Check it out the next time you want to send a card to a man, woman or child with cancer: http://www.KimoKards.com.

Comments are closed.