What To Say To The Newly Diagnosed

by Jane Ashley

When our friends, co-workers and relatives hear about our diagnosis, they are distressed by our bad news and want to reach out and provide comfort. Yet, often they are silent and say nothing. Why? Because they don’t know what to say. So they don’t say anything.

Nothing More Comforting Than A Hug

Important Facts to Remember about Those with Cancer

First and foremost, we are still the same person. But we have a serious, potentially fatal disease. That fact doesn’t change who we are — it changes our immediate plans. We have to postpone the things we were planning to do and focus on the treatments.

We’re still the same person — we still have our job (hopefully and a good boss), we still owe a mortgage, we probably have a spouse (who can help us through this), we may yet have children in school. We have the responsibilities that we’ve always had, but now, we have this awful, sometimes disfiguring disease that is trying to snatch us away from the life that we love.

Put yourself in our shoes for moment. What would you want someone to say to you? Once you’ve figured out what you’d want someone to tell you when they heard your bad news, you’ll know just what to say when someone you know develops cancer.

Fleece Throw

What We Want You to Understand.
• Don’t treat me different, I’m not dead yet.
• Call me up and say that I’m thinking of you.
• Ask, “Can I do anything for you?” NOT, “Call me if I can do anything.”
• Please don’t ignore me or steer clear of me because you don’t know what to say. I’d like to see you.
• Yes, you can help me, and we’d appreciate it.
• Don’t feel bad for me because I have cancer.
• Let’s do something fun. I need to laugh and have some fun.
• Don’t feel uncomfortable around me. I’m still the same me, and it’s not contagious.
• Please invite me to have lunch. I might not be able to go because of treatments, but I’d appreciate your thinking of me.
• I’m still me. I still love jokes and shopping.

We don’t know what the future holds. In reality, no one knows what the future holds. From automobile accidents to mass shootings to a health crisis, no one knows what tomorrow will bring.

I Am Here For You

What We Want and Need to Hear

Most important is just to say something — ignoring us because you don’t know what to say makes us feel awful. A simple, heartfelt “I’m sorry” is sufficient.
• You are not alone.
• I’ll be praying for you.
• I’m here for you … to listen and to help.
• Do you feel like having company?
• Send an empathic card or note.
• Donate blood in my honor.
• Be positive without being unrealistic. Don’t say, “You’ve got this.” Cancer treatment is filled with twists and turns that our medical teams can’t predict. Don’t offer false hope.
• Offer a hug or a “bro handshake.”
• I’m sorry that this has happened to you.
• I love you.
• I don’t know what to say except that I hate that you’re having to face this.
• You’ve been on my mind and in my heart.

You Have My Support

Thoughtful Things to Do

Most cancer patients are overwhelmed by the number of medical appointments that they have. Add in the fatigue from chemotherapy or radiation, and the smallest tasks seems monumental for us.
• Can I come over and vacuum for you?
• Could I come over and do your laundry?
• Offer to pet sit.
• Offer to mow the lawn, and set the date.
• Can I pick up your grocery order and bring it to you?
• Would you like for me to pick up your prescriptions from the drugstore?
• Could I bring you lunch at the chemo center?
• Offer to pick up the children from school.
• Give a gift card from their pharmacy or favorite grocery store.
• Text them that you are thinking of them.
• There’s nothing more comforting than the gift of a fleece throw to take to chemo.
• Offer to make their favorite food.

Don't overlook the obvious, cancer is a cash draining disease. You don't have to offer to pay all our co-pays, but a gas card or a gift card to a restaurant along the way to the hospital or doctor's office would be a nice gesture that would surely be appreciated. 

Please don’t ignore us because you don’t know what to say. Please don’t avoid us because you feel guilty that we have cancer. We’ll still be friends — whether I have cancer or you have cancer. Just be there to support us and encourage us when we get the dreaded diagnosis of cancer.

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