I don't know anything about cancer

ELIZABETH WHITTINGTON
PUBLISHED: JANUARY 19, 2011
Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.
This morning I read a blog, "What does it mean to be a good listener?" and then found out a friend's husband had a recurrence. Sometimes it's ironic how things seem to fit together.

The blog explained how you can be a good friend to a person who has cancer, especially if you've never been touched by the disease yourself.

The one pet peeve (if you can call it that) I've heard from patients and survivors over and over again in this job--please don't tell me you know how I feel unless you've been here.

I haven't. I've never had cancer. I've never been a primary caregiver to someone who has had cancer. Through my work at CURE, though, I've met many people who have had to deal with the disease, including some very good friends--including a colleague and my boss ("Confessions of a two-time survivor"). I can't imagine what they're going through. Nor do I try.

Some of the best advice I've heard on what to say to someone just diagnosed with cancer is simply, "I'm sorry."

Even if you're afraid of saying the wrong thing (like, I knew someone with ____ cancer, but they died--yeah, never say that), it's better than saying nothing at all.

So, to all those people out there who love people with cancer, but don't know what they're going through:

"The fact that you don't share the bond of cancer, though, doesn't mean you can't be helpful, supportive, and caring. You can be all of these by listening. Some of the most supportive people in my life have never had cancer. It doesn't matter. They are good friends in part because they are good listeners." --Lisa Adams, breast cancer survivor

I don't know anything about cancer, but I am a good listener.

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.
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