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SAY THIS, NOT THAT. What to say (and not say) when cancer happens!

Posted by Arona Martin on
SAY THIS, NOT THAT. What to say (and not say) when cancer happens!

It’s hard to know what to say when someone we love gets cancer. And when we hear those dreaded words, sometimes our common sense and verbal tact seem to go out the window and we say things (with the best of intention, of course) that can be less than helpful, and sometimes even hurtful. Lets stop doing that… I know you mean well, but seriously, SHHHHHHH!

1. “My cousin’s sister’s son had that type of cancer, and they totally were cured/died.”I heard things like this a few times with my friend, Jessica. When people said this to her/us, they were always referring to someone that had some sort of cancer (most of the time, they didn’t even know what kind). FYI - all cancers are different, and all bodies react differently to treatment, so it’s best to not compare. Ever.

What to say instead: “I realize every medical situation is different, but I know someone with a similar story. Would you like to talk to them? I can connect you both if you want.” 

2. “You should try a going to that place in Mexico/going to a healing shaman/eating all your meals while hanging upside down/etc.”  We all have different beliefs, and also different approaches when it is comes to health and medicine. If you want to suggest something that is outside of what your friend or loved one is already doing please tread lightly. She may already be trying everything she can manage at the moment. Sometimes by suggesting something new, you can make her feel like she’s not really “fighting” the good fight if she doesn’t take your advice and travel to a mountain top to meet with an energy healer. If you passionately believe in a certain remedy, try an open-ended approach.

What to say instead: “I know you are doing everything you can to beat this. So if you are open to a new idea I found something interesting and thought it may help. Let me know if/when you are open to hearing about it. Totally up to you. I love you” I actually tried this with a friend recently, and she wasn’t into hearing about what I thought would help. It stung a bit, but I just confirmed that I love her, and chose to respect her in the fight. It worked!!!

Another inspirational idea if to gift them this personalized and beautiful art therapy journal for cancer fighters. 


Love Heals journal for cancer patients


3. “Let me know what I can do to help.” So nice, but so NOT helpful. Remember, cancer is hard. Not only is it a physical fight, the mental part can also be exhausting as well. Your loved one has NO idea when she needs when she needs it, and she is more than likely overwhelmed. Help her out by being specific in your ask.

What to say instead: “I was planning on dropping a meal off to you. Is tomorrow good?” This gives your friend a simple question with a yes or no answer – it takes the planning, scheduling and stress out of it for her.  Need more ideas?  Here are 14 suggestions of what you CAN do instead of ASKING what you can do.


4. “Everything is going to fine.” We are often tempted to say “you will be fine” when we hear scary or sad thoughts, mostly to put ourselves at ease. Don’t. I don’t even understand why one would choose to say this, when you have no idea if it is going to be true.

What to say instead: “I am here for you no matter what.” This is where is gets real. We don’t know what is going to happen with our loved one. Cancer is ugly, and it is so hard to see someone we love in the depths of it. Be brave!  If they can face cancer, you can show up and love them thru it!

And please always remember: Don’t Stop, until the cancer does. Never stop showing that you care, regardless of the reaction. Tag them on social media, send them a card or a funny text. Make a phone call just to say “Hi” or to tell them you love them. You never know what kind of day your loved one is having and your sweet gesture could give them the added strength they need in that moment!

Are you living with cancer, a survivor, or a caregiver? What advice do you wish had been shared with your community of friends during your experience? What was the most helpful thing that someone did for you or a loved one during cancer treatment? Share with us in the comments section below.



P.S. Are you a supporter of a loved one with cancer? Join my private support community HERE.



Big Hug Lap Blanket with tagsLove Heals Journal

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