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What To Say - And What Not to Say - To a Friend or Loved One With Cancer

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say, especially when cancer is involved.
BY Jessica Skarzynski
PUBLISHED August 29, 2019
Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say, especially when cancer is involved.

We recently asked our social media audience: When living with cancer, what words would you most want to hear from your family and friends? What would you not want to hear?

While a few commenters noted that every conversation has the potential to be a sticky situation – one said that “it’s like (walking) on eggshells trying to say the right thing” – a few recognize that for the most part, friends and family don’t mean any harm. As one commenter explained, “Overall, I realize people are well meaning so I try to remember that.”

When it comes to what to say – and what not to say – here’s what our audience had to say:

What do you most want to hear from family and friends?
  • I want to hear the phone ring, I want to have people come visit me, I want to not feel all alone. – TL
  • We are here for you. – SS
  • Asking if today is an ok day to do something. Many aren’t. – VB
  • I can do XYZ for you. Would you like that? This is about you, what do you need? I will fight for you when you feel like you can’t fight anymore. – KB
  • I am on my way over to clean your house. – MM
  • Hey, I’m making you dinner. What don’t you like? – AG
  • Let’s go out and do something fun! – ID 
  • You will not go through this alone. – JK
  • I am so sorry you are going through this. I love you and I am here for you. – DB
  • I don’t know what to say, but I’m here. – VS
  • I am so sorry this has happened. Tell me what you need. – NG
  • I like to hear when they ask anything about me the person, not the cancer patient. – DV
  • I’m praying for you. – RG

What do you not want to hear?
  • I’m praying for you. – VS
  • Advice on how to beat cancer from people who never had cancer; positive pep talks urging me to be positive, stay strong, etc.; stories about other people's relatives who had cancer. – SL
  • They have the cure for cancer but big pharma wants to keep it a secret so they can make money. – SS
  • God doesn’t give you more than you can handle = THE WORST!!! Never say this! – TG
  • How are you feeling? – MM
  • You’re strong. You’ll win this battle. – AG
  • I don't want to hear the sound of silence from people too afraid to face me. – MM
  • You don't look sick. – ID
  • At least it’s the good kind of cancer. – RG
  • You need to keep a positive attitude; it could be worse. – DB
  • ‘I know how feel.’ No, you don't. – TS
  • I get tired of hearing ‘I’m sorry’ when I am going through a bad time or feeling down. It doesn’t comfort me, and I think to myself, don’t you understand? Is that all you can say? But then I figure they mean well and I cut them some slack. – LM
  • You’ve got this. – KGM
Continue the conversation on CURE’s forum. >>
Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the Prostate cancer CURE discussion group.

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