Having cancer sucks. Hearing a friend or relative has cancer is also pretty shitty. A lot of people have told me they don’t know what to say or do to be supportive.
First of all, the fact that you are thinking and talking about it, tells me you deeply care for this person. That is beautiful. They will feel this no matter how you decide to express yourself! The fact that you are reading this blog and are willing to understand what is going on in their lives and their mind, shows you are a great friend.
Time is precious. Spending your time with them or investing time to learn how to support them is therefore a wonderful gift in itself.
Having said that, here are five suggestions to say to somebody who is in treatment.
This sounds ridiculous, right? Well, you’d be surprised to know how many people hide themselves in the supermarket when they see you. Especially when you’re walking around with a bald head. I mean, why would you do that in the first place?! It makes them feel so uncomfortable…!
Cancer is not contagious. Don’t know what to say and afraid you might say something terrible? Just remember this: ignoring people, pretending to see a celebrity across the street or have a fly in your eye – that’s terrible. A simple ‘hi’ will do.
- “How are you today?”
Asking a cancer patient how they are doing can be tricky. After all, people are in treatment because they are, at least on a physical level, not ok. The question “how are you?” is usually a difficult one to answer and doesn’t really mean anything. When used along with the ‘hello’s’ and ‘hi’s’ as suggested above: perfectly fine! However, when you really want to know how somebody is feeling, you can consider adding ‘today’. It shows that you understand some days are better than others and is an invitation to talk about that.
- “Shit / I’m sorry”
As I said, having cancer is generally seen as a negative experience. Sometimes it is enough to just acknowledge that and curse for a bit. Alternatively, a simple: “I’m sorry you are going through this” is usually appropriate.
- “I was happy to hear/read that…” “Tell me more…”
A lot of cancer patients share about their experience on a blog, social media or by sending out e-mails to their loved ones. It’s nice to let your friend know you have read what they wrote and are interested in what they are up to. Maybe they posted a picture about a holiday? Inform you about good results at the hospital? Tell you about an upcoming surgery? Refer to the contents of their writing or thank them for keeping you updated.
- “Have you heard the newest Backstreet Boys song?”
Being in treatment can alienate you from normal life. The amount of information thrown at you in the hospital is crazy. It makes a change to talk about non cancerous subjects. Book, tv show or movie recommendations, songs to share, a funny story of something that happened at work – random topics like these are often more than welcome.
When you were in treatment, what did you like to talk about? Let me know in the comments below!
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