What Not to Say to Someone With Cancer
It can be hard to know the right thing to say when a loved one tells you they have cancer. But you can never go wrong by being a good listener. They may need to talk through their emotions. Or they may just need some company while they quietly reflect.
A cancer journey can bring with it many juxtaposed emotions. Patients sometimes feel pressure to stay positive or downplay how they are feeling in order to protect their loved ones from stress. Give them permission to express their full range of emotions with you (sadness, determination, fear, courageousness, anger, and joy).
DON'T BE INTRUSIVE
Let them know that you’re open to talking whenever they feel like it, on their terms, when they are ready.
If someone feels stigmatized for their cancer diagnosis, be reassuring and show you care.
It’s usually best not to share stories about family members or friends who have had cancer. Everyone is different, and these stories may not be helpful. Instead, it’s OK to let them know that you are familiar with cancer because you’ve been through it with someone else. Then they can pick up the conversation from there.
MAKE PLANS & BE FLEXIBLE
Consistently check in, but let your friend know that it's okay if they don't feel like talking. Checking in on loved ones isn't a one-and-done. Like anyone, cancer patients have their good and bad days. If a friend tells you they are feeling okay, make sure to stay in touch and offer a lending hand or ear.