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Published on November 21, 2012

Seven Things To Say To A Cancer Patient

When a friend or loved one finds out that they have cancer, it’s very difficult to know what to say. Depending on your relationship with the person, you either feel just awful, or are completely heartbroken.

But, as a friend or loved one, you have a job to do – you need to comfort this person you care about. But it seems incredibly difficult to find the right words, or to say them the right way, and you’re terrified that you’re going to get tongue-tied and say the wrong thing, even though your heart is in the right place. The number one rule when talking with a cancer patient is to remember that you’re not expected to be a miracle worker. You’re expected to be a friend. Remember, your role is not to cure; it’s to care.

With that in mind, here are seven things to say cancer patients to comfort tem and let them know you care:

  1. “I’m so sorry. You shouldn’t have to go through this.” This phrase answers the questions that many cancer patients ask – why me? Did I do something wrong? Letting the person know that you consider them a good person who has done nothing to deserve this insidious disease can be reassuring.
  2. “Stay strong; I’m here for you.” Telling someone to have strength can be invaluable, particularly if you say it with full sincerity, and therefore make it clear that you’re standing by them, ready to assist. It’s easy for them lose faith
  3. “This will be a tough fight, but I’m with you.” Acknowledging the difficult road ahead lets the patient know that you’re not trying to sweep his cancer under the run, that you’re willing to talk about it and provide strength for the battle ahead.
  4. “Let me give you something that helped me.” People with cancer are searching for answers. Giving them a gift that helped you survive cancer or some other illness is like handing them a talisman – something magical that can give them hope.
  5. “What can I do for you? Do you need help cleaning? Can I go to the store for you?” The day-in, day-out details of life can get lost in the shuffle when you’re obsessed with fighting cancer. A sincere offer to take daily chores off a patient’s plate is a huge help.
  6. “Who do you think will be the next coach of the Eagles?” Or, really, anything that doesn’t have to do with cancer. Cancer patients don’t need or want to only talk about the disease. They want to know that life is still normal, so normal conversations reinforce that.
  7. Nothing. Sometimes it’s best to not say anything. Hold your friend, or give her a hug.

For more information about Crozer-Keystone Health System Cancer Services, visit http://ckcancer.crozerkeystone.org. You can also call 1-866-695-HOPE (4673) to request an appointment with a physician who cares for cancer patients.

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