10 Things Cancer Patients Love to Hear

by bnmcnabb

Things Cancer Patients Love To Hear

Background: WhatNext.com is an online support network developed in partnership with the American Cancer Society that helps help cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers gain firsthand insight into living with cancer and connect with others facing a similar diagnosis. Members of WhatNext.com are sometimes referred to as "WhatNexters."

"Once someone said to me, 'I'll ride the waves with you till the storm calms,' and that meant a lot to me because I knew they would be with me no matter what." - MMarie

Sometimes it is hard to know what to say to someone who has cancer. We asked WhatNexters what they loved to hear during their cancer journey; here are ten of their most helpful responses.

1. "I don't know what to say but I'm here for you."

When A Friend Has Cancer

via sheknows.com

Many WhatNexters say that it is okay to tell them you don't know what to say. Not knowing is normal and the honesty is appreciated. Some WhatNexters feel that friends and loved ones feel pressure to say the perfect thing but it is okay to be transparent about not knowing.

“I like the honesty of hearing someone say that they don't know what to say but that they are there for me." - ML, Facebook Contributor

2. "I'll ride the waves with you 'til the storm calms." 

Ride The Wave Of Cancer Together

via angelslightworldwide.com

This is such a powerful statement because it lets the person know that they can count on you. Sometimes people with cancer just want to hear that they are not alone and that someone will be there with them through their journey. Some might also like to hear, 'You are not alone,' or 'Lean on me.' Even if you feel you don't understand or don't know what to say, you can still make it clear that you will be loyal to them through their battle with cancer.

"Once someone said to me, 'I'll ride the waves with you till the storm calms,' and that meant a lot to me because I knew they would be with me no matter what." - MMarie

3. "I'm here to listen."

Listen To Someone With Cancer

via abcnews.go.com

Some WhatNexters say that it is not hearing the perfect thing that was most important to them, but just knowing they have someone to talk to is important. Some WhatNexters feel that their venting is a burden but saying you are there to listen lets them know that they don't have to shy away from tough or emotional conversations.

"It doesn't always matter what people say to me but it needs to be honest, from their heart. I don't like when I feel people pretend to say something or act in such a way they don't feel only because I have cancer. The kindest unexpected thing came from my surgeon, the one that operated on my main tumor. He knew I was feeling very alone since I live abroad so he used to go every night and morning to see me and used to give me his hand and stayed there listening to my complaints, fears and let me cry." - glam

4. I like to hear, "Let me help with..." because knowing they will do something specific makes it easier on me.

What To Say To Someone With Cancer

via thesilverpen.com

When people ask 'What can I do for you?' or 'How can I help?' it often puts more pressure on the person with cancer because they have to put effort into coming up with something specific. They end up saying, 'I'm okay for now,' or 'I don't need anything.' Saying you want to do something specific like bring them a meal, take them to their next chemo appointment, or pick something up for them at the store makes it easier on the person with cancer to accept direct help.

"Offer to help with something specific or if you don't know the person well enough to help directly, send a gift card to a local restaurant that has delivery/take out." - BCW, Facebook Contributor

5. I like to hear "What have you been up to?" "How is your family?" I like questions about things other than my cancer.

Have Normal Conversation With Someone Who Has Cancer

via kumc.edu

Some WhatNexters feel that having cancer is like having a tattoo on their forehead; they feel that once they are diagnosed, cancer is the only thing others notice. You don't always have to say something relating to their health. Sometimes it is more meaningful to talk about normal stuff and continue to treat them the same as you did before they were diagnosed. 

"That it feels good just to have a normal conversation about the day's news, a good book or movie, anything other than cancer." -Blue

“I have two wonderful friends who have continued to treat me just like they always did before my diagnosis. No discomfort in my presence, no groping for the right words, just old friends having a chat. They tease me, they aggravate me, they keep me laughing, and I'm always happy after seeing or talking to either of them. I'm not sure that they understand how much it means to me to be treated normally, but it means a lot.” -stillkickin

6. I loved to hear the phone ring or hearing I have a text.

Call Someone With Cancer

via aarp.com

Along with that normal conversation that people with cancer crave, sometimes the thing that means the most is just getting a phone call or text from a friend that is checking in. 

WhatNexters agree that one of the worst things to hear is nothing: radio silence. That silence might be more hurtful than saying the "wrong" thing.

"A woman I barely knew form work ran into me in at the parking lot of the hospital. I was going in for another test. She said, "I heard what happened and I want to tell you I was hoping I'd see you because I want you to know I will be there for you." I was quite surprised and not ready yet to accept help so I thanked her and thought, I won't call. But she followed up with an email and a text. She ended up being one of my closest allies and friends. Support comes in the strangest places." - mcshap

"By far, the worst experience was being shunned. When it was obvious to some people whom I had known for a long time that I was very ill and and I still got the cold shoulder or I suddenly became invisible to them and didn't hear from them at all, well that was truly hurtful. It made me wonder how they felt I could deserve such treatment." - Pablo

7. "You'll be in my prayers."

Pray For Someone With Cancer

via daisies.com

Those that are religious find these words encouraging, but it is not for everyone. Some WhatNexters like to hear that someone will pray for them, others just like to hear honest words of faith, hope, courage, and love spoken to them. Honest words include things that people don't say everyday, for example, 'You are brave,' or 'I have faith that you can fight this.' 

"After a Breast Cancer Awareness Walk that I participated in when I had just finished chemo, we stopped in a restaurant - a lady approached me and asked if I was battling cancer. I said yes, she hugged me and said that I would be in her prayers. Her openness and true compassion was very acceptable to me at that moment." - JennyMiller

"We love to hear words of faith, hope, courage, and love instead of our friends or loved ones having emotional breakdowns in front of us." - KZG, Facebook Contributor

8. I have mail.

Send Someone With Cancer A Card

via google.com

Spoken words are meaningful, but sometimes more can be said in writing or through a simple note of encouragement. Some WhatNexters have been encouraged by snail mail or just a simple note left on their desk at work. Other ideas include sending a gift card to a local restaurant or grocery store, bringing over a meal, or putting together a care package and bringing it to work, their home, or the hospital.

"My first fight - lymphoma. I was bald and looked like I was on a hunger strike, so there was no hiding the fact that I was not myself. There's a young man in the plant who I always said hello to and smiled at whenever I saw him. I came into work one day while on chemo and found a card on my desk. I opened it and there was one line, "I pray for you," and his name with a heart after it. This really touched my heart." - SharonA49090

9. "Where can I learn more?"

I Want To Learn More About Cancer

via google.com

Some WhatNexters say that their friends have asked "Where can I learn more?" or "What books can I find about cancer?" This shows genuine interest. Instead of barraging them with questions, you are taking initiative and doing research on your own.

"I appreciated when someone asked, 'I want to learn more, are there any websites or books you would recommend?' I knew then that they really cared." - MMarie

10. "How about a hug?"

Cancer Hug

via google.com

Sincerity and simple actions seem to be a theme that is important to people with cancer. Even if it is offering a hug, offering your company, or just giving them the gift of your time, all of those simple things are appreciated. 

"Sometimes it is as simple as someone asking if you need a hug." - CK, Facebook Contributor

"I feel blessed and loved to have so many family, friends and strangers who take the time to listen to me and seem to give me a hug, a ride, an encouraging word, etc. just when I need it. Inevitably cancer is what I have not who I am.” - SueRae1

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