What You Should Say to Someone with Cancer


“Right, perfect. So what did you want to hear from people after you told them? Sometimes people don’t know what to say or they say the wrong thing, frankly.

People did say a lot of challenging things to me and I sort of wore hats from both sides of the bed, so when I heard something that didn’t settle well for me I had the ability to say, “You know what? That’s not working for me.” For example, I had a number of people—shockingly—say, “My neighbor’s sister-in-law’s cousin’s niece had breast cancer, and she died from it, so good luck.”

What I know for sure is when people try to engage, it comes from a loving place. The majority of the time, when people say things that don’t come across very well, they’re doing the best that they can. What I always recommend is that people begin by saying, “I’m really scared about your diagnosis. I don’t know what to say. I really need help from you to let me know what I can say and how I can be a support to you.” Just being honest and saying, “I have no idea what to say, I want to do my very best, and I really don’t want to say something that’s going to come across as either hurtful or dismissive or anything else, so help me help you.” That’s a nice way to start because it’s sort of disarming, and then you follow up by saying, “Can we make a pact that if I say something really stupid, even though it came from a loving place, will you tell me that it came across the wrong way, and that way I’ll know what works and what doesn’t work for you?” So it’s really a matter of being honest.

It is, and simply speaking. So many people are afraid of that simplicity.”

Learn more about cancer: http://bit.ly/1NUN4Hz

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