What to Say and Do for a Cancer Patient
Last updated: June 2023
Cancer is such an awkward topic. What do you say to someone who has just been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness? How do you talk to them? What can you do to help?
Cancer patients have a lot going on, no surprise there. Maintaining friendships or family relationships, understandably, may not be a huge priority while fighting for your life. On top of that, chemo brain causes memory loss, stress is likely at an all-time high, and anxiety levels are probably through the roof.
Everyone dealing with cancer is likely experiencing unfamiliar emotions and feelings that others don’t always understand or relate to. It can be a very isolating feeling. Most of the time, we can't figure out for ourselves why we feel the way we do. I think a lot of people believe that giving advice is a great way to help someone going through a tough time, but many times it just takes is someone who is willing to listen.
Taking time to listen
A lot of people did really nice things for me while I was battling cancer, but not many people took the time to truly listen. I get it, I really do. It’s a tough topic to talk about and most people don’t know what to say, but the great news is that you don’t really need to say anything! It made me so sad to see people who I considered close friends start to distance themselves from me during the hardest months of my life. Looking back, I don’t think they were trying to be malicious, but it was hurtful and I no longer consider them close friends. I always try to see things from other people’s perspectives and I truly believe that they just didn’t know how to act around me, but that doesn’t make it sting any less.
Simple gestures matter
I really want to emphasize that what I’m suggesting doesn’t take a lot of effort. It can be as simple as a phone call or even an email. Just remind them that you’re there and you care.
So if you know someone battling cancer, don't hesitate to pick up the phone. Go visit them or cook a meal for them. Learn how to listen without trying to solve their problems. Give them a long hug. Realize that just because you may not understand what they’re going through doesn’t mean you can't be there for them. Have patience and let them know they have your full support. They’ll appreciate it more than you’ll ever know.
What blood cancer were you diagnosed with?