Your friend has cancer –
what you should say
(and not say)
Your words should offer support, encouragement and comfort.
Things to say to a friend with cancer:
I am here to support you – people need to know that they have a support system. They don’t yet know what they need, but knowing they have friends to lean on is important.
This is not going to be easy – dealing with cancer is tough and there is really no way to sugarcoat it. It may seem harsh, but having someone acknowledge how difficult it is can be comforting.
This is unfair – getting cancer isn’t about luck and while sometimes it’s about lifestyle, often it isn’t. Getting cancer is just one of the many things in life that is unfair
Things not to say to a friend with cancer:
Everything will be all right – there is no way to know that and saying that is not necessarily helpful. Your job as a friend is to be supportive and encouraging without setting expectations.
Things happen for a reason – you may believe that, but in the moment this is not helpful. If you are the person the “thing” just happened to, you really don’t care about the reason.
I am so upset by this – your friend wants to know that you care about them, this is not about you. They need you to comfort them, not the other way around.
It could be worse – of course it could be worse, it can always be worse, but again when you are dealing with this awful thing, it does not help.
So and so’s aunt had this and she is fine – this one is not so definitive. It does help some people to hear stories of others who have done well. It gives people hope. The problem is that every cancer diagnosis is different and so again, this can set odd expectations.
As you read the above and think, “No way people say these things,” I will tell you that at some point along the way each of these things was said to me.
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