There are so many articles and videos about what to and what not to say to certain people- Pregnant women, someone who just lost a spouse, first time parents, stay at home moms, working moms, and the list goes on.
Here is MY version of what to say or do when someone you love has just been diagnosed with cancer. There are actually full books on this topic-but like any thing not 100% universal. I’ve read to not tell a cancer patient they look, “Too healthy to have cancer.” I actually loved hearing that.
“I love you.” This is universal and easy 🙂 Cancer can feel extremely isolating, but knowing that people are still thinking about you as they carry on with their day-to-day is nice.
“Can I help you with _____?” Be specific, for example: When can I bring over dinner? Do you want me to watch the kiddos for an evening? Can I come over Wednesday afternoon if you want to get out of the house or take a nap.
“Let me know when your next treatment is, I’ll come sit with you.” HUGE! Having that friend or loved one sitting next to you is so nice. You can even Be that super friend and bring a blanket and a trashy magazine. Very few (if anyone) wants to be the alone person in the treatment room. Honestly, you don’t have to stay the whole time or even talk the whole time – just having you there is AMAZING.
Positive stories – DO NOT tell the story of someone that died or got this crazy infection after surgery. Seriously?! We are already scared, even if we don’t say it. Yes, this happens – A LOT!
If you stick your foot in your mouth (SO EASY TO DO) just apologize and move on.
Send a card or a note- I still have all of mine in a box.
Call/text. Even if your reach out doesn’t get returned, try again a few days or week later. Even let them know in your message that the call doesn’t have to be returned, you just wanted to say hi and see how it was going.
Bring over dinner, do laundry. Try to be helpful, but not intrusive.
Please don’t complain about little things that the person getting treatment would be grateful for – needing your hair done was something I overheard in a treatment room once. Grrrrrrr…
Remember the whole family is affected, not just the one getting chemo. Think about the spouses and kids – this is REALLY hard on them too. A book, some golf balls, small toy, coloring book; these things can uplift in a matter of moments.
Do NOT start looking up statistics and diagnosis outcomes on Google – you can, and likely will, end up in some very dark places.
Cancer is incredibly hard on the person going through treatment and the ones that love them. Being there for your friend or the one you love is really all they want. I was absolutely amazed by the love and thoughtfulness that my family and I received when we went through diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.
I can speak from first-hand experience that I did lose friends when they found out I had cancer. I get it. Crummy, but I get it. Being a friend or loved one of someone going through cancer is hard. Watching them morph before your eyes is hard. Not knowing if they will be okay is hard. They may, and likely will, be a different person after they have traveled this road.
The reality is – being there for a loved one or friend is not always easy, it’s not always sunshine moments. Sometimes it’s just hot sad tears. But being that solid person that sticks around through the really hard and low times makes those laugh-til-you-cry moments even better.