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: