If a friend or family member is diagnosed with cancer, you may be unsure what to say. Angela and Dennis Buttimer, certified health and life coaches at Cancer Wellness, explain what you should avoid saying to someone with cancer and what to say instead.
Don't: Say you know how they feel.
What to say instead: "I really empathize with you." Empathy validates their feelings without assuming you know exactly how they feel.
Don't: Ask invasive questions about their diagnosis and treatment plan.
What to say instead: "Is there anything I can do to help you?" You can offer to give them a ride to their appointments, pick up their children from school, make dinner one night a week or babysit, for example.
Don't: Ask about their prognosis or how long they have to live.
What to say instead: "I want to encourage you as you move through this challenging time."
Don't: Share "horror stories" you've heard from other people with cancer.
What to say instead: "I'm sorry this has happened and I'm here for you."
Don't: Tell them what you've heard is best for treating their cancer.
What to say instead: "If you would like to talk, I'll be happy to listen." What works for one person does not necessarily work for another. Avoid giving unsolicited advice; instead, offer a listening ear.
Learn more ways you can offer support to someone with cancer.