Web Exclusive: An Excerpt from "Conquer Prostate Cancer"
June 15, 2010
Integrative Medicine: Exercise Scores Against Anxiety
June 19, 2010 – Lena Huang
Web Exclusive: Gaining Ground In Treating Metastatic Colorectal Cancer
June 15, 2010 – Kathy LaTour
Web Exclusive: Standing Up to Cancer
June 16, 2010 – Kathy LaTour
Web Exclusive: Find a Clinical Trial That's Right for You
June 16, 2010
More Therapies Needed for Childhood Cancers
June 14, 2010 – Bunmi Ishola
The Price of Parenthood
June 10, 2010 – Erik Ness
Should I Have My Child Tested?
June 09, 2010 – Charlotte Huff
Teaming Up Against Liver Cancers
June 09, 2010 – Kathy LaTour
What Is Metastatic Cancer?
June 09, 2010
Watching, Waiting, & More
June 07, 2010 – Karen Patterson
Other Leukemias
June 06, 2010 – Karen Patterson
A Friendlier Approach
June 08, 2010 – Laura Beil
Phases of Clinical Trials
June 08, 2010
Doc, Can We Talk About Clinical Trials?
June 07, 2010 – Laura Beil
Acknowledging Loss
June 06, 2010 – Michael E. Reid
How Not to Buffer
June 07, 2010 – Marc Silver
Buffer Zone
June 08, 2010 – Marc Silver
Sex and Intimacy After Cancer
June 06, 2010 – Lacey Meyer
The Genes That Bind
June 07, 2010 – Charlotte Huff
What to Expect When You're Not Expecting—Yet
June 04, 2010 – Erik Ness
ASCO Updates
June 07, 2010 – Staff Reports
Mirror Makeovers
June 07, 2010 – Kathy LaTour
A Lasting Effect on Breast Cancer Prevention
June 08, 2010 – Elizabeth Whittington
www.cancerversary.org
June 08, 2010 – Elizabeth Whittington
Q & A: Prostate Cancer Screeing Guidelines
June 08, 2010 – Len Lichtenfeld, MD
Saying Goodbye to Georgy Girl and a Designing Woman
June 08, 2010 – Bunmi Ishola
The Us TOO International Summit, Symposium & Celebration
June 08, 2010 – Bunmi Ishola
A Health Care Victory for Cancer Patients
June 07, 2010 – Bunmi Ishola
The Rules
June 01, 2010 – Leslie Starsoneck
Pipeline
June 10, 2010 – Katy Human
Beginning to End
May 30, 2010 – Valerie Bosselman
Mixing It Up
June 01, 2010 – Don Vaughan
Can an Aspirin a Day Keep Breast Cancer Away?
May 30, 2010 – Charlotte Huff
Bad Block
June 01, 2010 – Bunmi Ishola
Letters From Our Readers
June 08, 2010
Message From the Editor
June 08, 2010 – Debu Tripathy, MD
The Treatment Option You May Be Missing
June 07, 2010 – Laura Beil
Progress That's Worth the Wait
June 05, 2010 – Karen Patterson
Living on the Edge: Some Patients with Metastatic Cancer Live Long and Well
June 04, 2010 – Kathy LaTour
Web Exclusive: An Excerpt from "Conquer Prostate Cancer"
June 15, 2010
Integrative Medicine: Exercise Scores Against Anxiety
June 19, 2010 – Lena Huang
Web Exclusive: Gaining Ground In Treating Metastatic Colorectal Cancer
June 15, 2010 – Kathy LaTour
Web Exclusive: Standing Up to Cancer
June 16, 2010 – Kathy LaTour
Web Exclusive: Find a Clinical Trial That's Right for You
June 16, 2010
More Therapies Needed for Childhood Cancers
June 14, 2010 – Bunmi Ishola
The Price of Parenthood
June 10, 2010 – Erik Ness
Should I Have My Child Tested?
June 09, 2010 – Charlotte Huff
Teaming Up Against Liver Cancers
June 09, 2010 – Kathy LaTour
What Is Metastatic Cancer?
June 09, 2010
Watching, Waiting, & More
June 07, 2010 – Karen Patterson
Other Leukemias
June 06, 2010 – Karen Patterson
A Friendlier Approach
June 08, 2010 – Laura Beil
Phases of Clinical Trials
June 08, 2010
Doc, Can We Talk About Clinical Trials?
June 07, 2010 – Laura Beil
Acknowledging Loss
June 06, 2010 – Michael E. Reid
How Not to Buffer
June 07, 2010 – Marc Silver
Buffer Zone
June 08, 2010 – Marc Silver
Sex and Intimacy After Cancer
June 06, 2010 – Lacey Meyer
The Genes That Bind
June 07, 2010 – Charlotte Huff
What to Expect When You're Not Expecting—Yet
June 04, 2010 – Erik Ness
ASCO Updates
June 07, 2010 – Staff Reports
Mirror Makeovers
June 07, 2010 – Kathy LaTour
A Lasting Effect on Breast Cancer Prevention
June 08, 2010 – Elizabeth Whittington
www.cancerversary.org
June 08, 2010 – Elizabeth Whittington
Q & A: Prostate Cancer Screeing Guidelines
June 08, 2010 – Len Lichtenfeld, MD
Saying Goodbye to Georgy Girl and a Designing Woman
June 08, 2010 – Bunmi Ishola
The Us TOO International Summit, Symposium & Celebration
June 08, 2010 – Bunmi Ishola
A Health Care Victory for Cancer Patients
June 07, 2010 – Bunmi Ishola
Currently Viewing
The Rules
June 01, 2010 – Leslie Starsoneck
Beginning to End
May 30, 2010 – Valerie Bosselman
Mixing It Up
June 01, 2010 – Don Vaughan
Can an Aspirin a Day Keep Breast Cancer Away?
May 30, 2010 – Charlotte Huff
Bad Block
June 01, 2010 – Bunmi Ishola
Letters From Our Readers
June 08, 2010
Message From the Editor
June 08, 2010 – Debu Tripathy, MD
The Treatment Option You May Be Missing
June 07, 2010 – Laura Beil
Progress That's Worth the Wait
June 05, 2010 – Karen Patterson
Living on the Edge: Some Patients with Metastatic Cancer Live Long and Well
June 04, 2010 – Kathy LaTour

The Rules

The dos and don'ts when someone you know is diagnosed.

BY Leslie Starsoneck
PUBLISHED June 01, 2010

People want to know the rules about what to do or say when a friend or family member is diagnosed with cancer. Here are my experiences and suggestions.

> “My aunt had cancer”: When I was first diagnosed and sharing the news with friends and family, I didn’t want to hear about other people who had cancer. It made me feel like I needed to be empathetic to that person—who was usually a stranger—or sympathetic to the person telling me, at a time when I had trouble mustering much energy beyond saying what was happening to me. I also quickly learned that these disclosures rarely had any value to me medically because of how very different each person is in terms of the stage, biology, and treatment for the disease.

> Ask: Ask whether the person facing cancer is comfortable sharing the details of their prognosis and treatment. If the patient tells you, it may give you an idea of how you can help. On the other hand, if you ask and get only vague details, you should accept this as a request for privacy and not ask others to provide this information.

> Respond: Even if you’re at a loss for words, say something when a person tells you about his or her diagnosis. Say that you’re at a loss for words or don’t know what to say, but don’t remain silent or ignore the elephant in the room by talking about everything else. This says to the patient, “You shouldn’t have told me this because I can’t handle it.”

> Help: Ask the patient if they want your help, and be specific about how you can help. This goes for little things, such as doing the laundry, and big things, such as publicly honoring them at a race or fundraiser.

> Don’t forget the caregiver: Whether it’s helping with some of the caregiver’s responsibilities (for example, running errands), delivering leisure items for them to use during “downtime,” or getting them out of the house, make sure to ask permission to help in specific ways. Then make sure to follow through.

> It’s OK to say or do the wrong thing: Remember that what you do or say to the patient doesn’t have to be perfect. The most important thing is that it’s genuine and based on care and concern. It’s so much better to say or do the wrong thing than to not say or do anything at all.

> It doesn’t end with recovery from surgery: Having the many phases of the journey acknowledged by others was important for me—fear of recurrence, the inevitable adjustments to medication, or the new way my body looks and feels—as opposed to treating cancer as a series of discrete events.

> Keep in touch: Show the patient that you recognize that cancer—whatever its particular path—is a journey. 

> Set realistic expectations: This rule is for patients who, like me, may have learned that family and friends don’t suddenly change their personalities because you have cancer. There may be instances where people step up who you thought wouldn’t, or people you thought you could rely on who you can’t. But for the most part, how someone responds will be in keeping with how he or she has always been. 

—Breast cancer survivor Leslie Starsoneck lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Be the first to discuss this article on CURE's forum. >>
Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.

Related Articles

1
×

Sign In

Not a member? Sign up now!
×

Sign Up

Are you a member? Please Log In