Finding the right words when someone just received a cancer diagnosis can be very difficult. Commonly things are or stay very uncertain at the beginning of a diagnose. You might be unsure about someone's future, you might be sad or frightened yourself, or you might not know how the other person feels about it. And even if you do, someone that has to deal with cancer goes through many different stages. You can read more about this in our blogpost 'Basic Do's and Don'ts When Someone You Know Has Cancer'.
You're not alone if you don't know what to say to someone who has cancer. We even build a whole webshop around it with items to express yourself when you or someone around you received a C-diagnosis. Feel free to have a look to get inspired.
Whether you know the person very well or not at all, the most important thing you can do is mention the situation in some way that feels most comfortable for you. Sometimes the simplest expressions of concern are the most meaningful. And sometimes just listening is the most helpful thing you can do.
But above all: respond from your heart! Here are some ideas:
- "I'm not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care."
- "I'm sorry to hear that you are going through this."
- "How are you doing?"
- "If you would like to talk about it, I'm here."
- "Please let me know how I can help."
- "I'll keep you in my thoughts."
Sentences like these leave space for the person with cancer to express how they feel and how they deal with their situation. Though this feeling might change over time, or even an hour later, it is good not to drop your own fears and sadness in their lab while there's already so much to worry about. On the other hand, while it's good to be encouraging, it's also important not to show false optimism or tell the person with cancer to always stay positive. Doing these things might seem to discount their very real fears, concerns, or sad feelings.
Humor can also be an important way of coping, but let the person with cancer take the lead here. Join them in a good laugh, a smile can be the best medicine, but especially with humor, timing is key.
It's usually best not to share stories about your father's great uncle who has a neighbor whose sister has had cancer, especially when it doesn't have a happy ending. Everyone is different, and these stories may not be helpful. And don't tell them that you know how they feel, because let's be honest… cancer has so many faces, you really can't know how someone feels. So don't drop all your fears and don't be over-optimistic either, but talk from the heart. Start at the suggestions above, or say nothing at all and give a big hug. Hugs have always been a good starting point for a conversation.
If you'd like to get some ideas on what kind of gift you can bring when visiting someone with cancer, you might want to read our blogpost '9 Gift Ideas For Someone With Cancer That Don't Cost A Thing'