What You Should Never Say to Someone With Cancer

Some days it seems like cancer is all around.  As a friend or family standing on the sidelines, it’s difficult to know what to say or do when someone you love is facing this terrifying diagnosis.  As both a cancer pharmacist and cancer survivor, I have learned what works and what does not.  Below are three tips when talking to someone with cancer.

1)  Don't Ask For a Miracle

Cancer is often thought of as just one monstrous disease but it is actually a thousand differ diseases all under one umbrella term.  Some types of cancers are deadly but others are curable.  Saying to someone that you’re ‘praying for a miracle’ when a cure is not only probable but likely, can be both startling and insulting.  Without knowing the specifics of a diagnosis, it’s impossible to know the outcome.  Some types of cancer need medicine and science rather than a miracle.

2) Don’t Ask ‘What Can I Do’

‘Let me know what I can do for you’ is a reflex statement almost entirely empty of meaning.  Instead of asking if there’s anything you can do to help - just do.  Leave supper, shovel snow, or walk the dog.  It does not have to be complicated or involve a lot of planning.  If you want to help - just do. 

3)   Don’t Over Do The Positivity

Everyone has bad days and this doesn’t differ after a cancer diagnosis.  It is completely normal and allowed.  But some feel the only way to interact with someone battling cancer is to flood the conversation with positivity.  There is nothing more irritating than having rainbows and sunshine shoved at you when you really just need to get something off your chest.  Statements like “well at least you have…” or “look on the bright side…” are not going to be helpful.  If someone with cancer is expressing a frustration, listen.  It’s that simple.  Listen, provide your opinion, and move on. 

Every cancer is different and every person touched by the disease is impacted differently.  These three tips will help you to be a great asset to family and friends.