What You SHOULD Say To A Loved One With Cancer

We've all read the articles about what not to say when a friend or family member is diagnosed with cancer. But what should we say? What would be most helpful while someone is facing that initial diagnosis, going through treatment or surgery, or dealing with the emotional aftermath of the ordeal? 

As a former cancer patient I can tell you what would have been most helpful to me.

1. Always pick a day and time. 

Don’t ask, “When would be a good time for me to come over?” Frequently we are so overwhelmed that we don’t even know when a good day and time would be.

2. Decide how you would like to help. 

Don’t say, “What do you need?” or “Call me if you need something!” Again, the needs are beyond the grasp of the person suffering and it shouldn’t be too difficult to choose a need that you feel comfortable handing.

3. Ask the person what their treatment, surgery, doctor visit, etc schedule is and mark it in your calendar. 

It feels lovely to have someone call after a treatment session because they remembered what was going on that day.

4. If your loved one has children, ask what the activity schedule is for the kids. 

Then pitch in to do the driving when you know you are available. Even better, set up a carpool calendar with other friends and neighbors.

5. Offer to help with daily tasks. 

Think about the things you do on a daily basis: meal prep, shopping, laundry, errands. These are all things that you can offer to help with.

Based on these basic rules, here are some examples of things you SHOULD say:
  • I’m going to bring dinner over on Tuesday night. I’ll be there at 7pm.
  • I know that you have a chemo session on Thursday, I’ll be there to pick you up at noon, and I’ll bring some magazines we can read during the session.
  • Give me your iPod for a few hours, I have some great music and relaxation audios that I want to give you.
  • Let me go to the grocery store for you, I’ll stop by tomorrow and we can make a shopping list.
  • I’d like to come over on Wednesday, have you already seen Nights in Rodanthe? (A comedy or romance would be much better than something like, say, Les Miserables.)
When in doubt, you can always say, “I love you, I am hurting for you, and I’d love to just come sit with you for a while.” You can’t go wrong with being honest and authentic.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com


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