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What DO you say to a cancer patient???

tgf's picture
tgf
Posts: 955
Joined: Mar 2009

I read the thread on "What not to say to a cancer patient" ... and in understand totally ... in face I've had several of them said to me. But ...I've been thinking (as much as possible with chemo brain) ... and I wondered ... what DO you say to a cancer patient? I know the way we all talk to each other ... and we are family and we are all walking in each others shoes ... but just suppose we saw someone we hadn't seen in awhile and they were diagnosed with cancer. What DO we say? It is so hard to come up with the right words to let that person know you care. I know I would want to go up to them and tell them I know how they feel ... because that's what we here tell each other a lot ... and it helps a lot ... but someone not part of this understanding "family" may think "HELL ... there's NO WAY you know how I feel" "There's NO WAY you could understand what I'm going through."

I must admit that some of those things NOT to say to a cancer patient have actually helped me. Not the stupid things about weight loss etc. ... but when someone has told me about a friend who has gone through what I'm going through and maybe I'd like to talk to her ... yes ... that helped. And it also helped a bit when people would tell me about someone diagnosed and treated 20-30 years ago and still going strong. That helped. I needed to know I wasn't alone and that there is life after cancer. I needed ... and still need to hear that ... and I do hear that from you my dear friends/family. You will never know how much or how often I have "leaned on" all of you and your words of support and love.

hugs.
teena

DianeBC's picture
DianeBC
Posts: 3888
Joined: Jun 2009

the one thing that people said that I thought was just perfect was as simple as saying.. "I am so sorry". And, that usually got followed by a hug. That just said it all!

Hugs, Diane ♥

lynn1950's picture
lynn1950
Posts: 2573
Joined: Jun 2008

we all have different thresholds and need to hear different things at different times of our treatment, and I agree absolutely! So maybe the best thing to say is "How you doing?" "Want to talk about it?" "I'd love to give you a hug." I try to use my intuition; sometimes it fails me. But my life has been so enriched by new friends in my little town. They haven't had bone cancer, but lung, colon and brain. They are lovely people who have shared so much in common. xoxoxo Lynn

susie09's picture
susie09
Posts: 2933
Joined: Jul 2009

That is what most people said to me and it is the most appropriate. I don't really want someone asking if I want to talk about it, because they wouldn't understand unless they had a diagnosis of bc. So, just saying I'm so sorry is perfect!

♠♣Susie♠♣

zahalene's picture
zahalene
Posts: 624
Joined: Nov 2005

This thought would not work in all situations, of course, because we can't just be throwing our personal information around out there these days, but...
if someone I know fairly well (co-worker or neighbor, for instance) tells me they have been diagnosed with cancer, I first say how sorry I am to hear that, then I tell them (or remind them if I think they may have already known) that I, too, am a cancer survivor and I offer them my phone number or email or whatever. And I assure them that I will be open to listen any time they need to talk. Now, having said that, I realize I am putting myself on the line, and we have to know inside ourselves whether or not we are ready to help carry someone else, as (hopefully) some other supporter helped to carry us.

Akiss4me's picture
Akiss4me
Posts: 2192
Joined: May 2009

Zahalene, love your approach to it! As you said, if it is someone you know. Howver, it you do not know the person, chances are you won't even hear about their cancer diagnosis. Most people would think it was too personal of info to give out to a stranger. Me, on the other hand, I tell EVERYONE!! I love to strike up a conversation and let them know, please get your mamo, or look at me...I'm kicking butt!, or yep, I have cancer and still look good!!!! Pammy

lynn1950's picture
lynn1950
Posts: 2573
Joined: Jun 2008

They haven't had BREAST cancer, but bone, lung, colon and brain....sheesh!

rjjj's picture
rjjj
Posts: 1826
Joined: Jan 2009

is I'm sorry or I love you (from ones that do) or a story of a long time survivor, a story of miracles and hope, or the ones who don't ask what you need but just cheer you by bringing dinner or a nice gesture.

jnl's picture
jnl
Posts: 3873
Joined: May 2009

I like to hear the "I am sorry". That is the best thing to say and what I like. Noone really wants to hear the details, I don't think. I think a lot of women that don't have it are so scared of it and they just don't want to know. Can't blame them.

Leeza

tgf's picture
tgf
Posts: 955
Joined: Mar 2009

Like you Pammy ... I don't mind talking about "it" at all. In fact I probably go overboard ... when someone asks how I'm doing ... I'm sure I give them more information than they really cared to hear. And ... I too am a big nag about telling people to get the mammograms etc. I tell them I'm a great example of not being able to feel anything myself ... and would never have known there was anything wrong ... but thank goodness they found it on my annual mammogram.

I guess in my mind this is all still one big adventure. Maybe it's my age ... but I am just totally amazed by every little thing that's happened since the mammogram. All of the science ... all of the technology ... the tests ... all of the doctors, nurses ... procedures etc. It's just amazing what is done after a diagnosis. And ... it amazes me that were all brought together to this website ... and we are all going through this together ... and it amazes me how strong we are.

hugs.
teena

lanie940's picture
lanie940
Posts: 492
Joined: Jul 2009

I was at my fave dept store. I was waited on by one of the gals who usually waits on me. I noticed she had a port on her arm. I didn't say anything, She asked me where i had been, she hadn't seen me for awhile, I told her I was diagnosed with breast cancer, She said "I'm so sorry, and then she smiled, and said, "You will make it through" I did, I am a 5 yr survivor. So I asked her what was goin on with her now, she said "kidney dialysis" We both shared a hug. She's a really nice lady. Poor woman went through BC, now has kidney problems. Sometimes you wonder.

survivorbc09
Posts: 4378
Joined: Jun 2009

I like it if they just say I am sorry and then give me a gentle hug! :)

Calleen's picture
Calleen
Posts: 414
Joined: Jul 2009

been thinking about this one!!! I too was very open about my BC... I wanted to share what I was going through so that hopfully I encourage early detection... What I would have liked to hear/feel and what I will be doing from now on based on the person is take their hand look them in the eye and say "I'm sorry... I am here" and follow up!... I lost people I really cared about during this and I also made new friends.. as the song by Tracy Lawrence goes.."You find out who your friends are"

ritazimm's picture
ritazimm
Posts: 173
Joined: Apr 2009

I felt that there really was nothing that was 'right' to be said to me. Nothing comforting anyway. I have decided that in the future I will just be saying to people with any kind of life changing-illness: "I'm sorry to hear that. You will be in my prayers". I don't think that this can be offensive to anyone, but maybe I'm wrong.

Rita :)

jnl's picture
jnl
Posts: 3873
Joined: May 2009

No, I think that is perfect Rita. Like I said, I wouldn't want to hear someone's whole journey thru bc, if I didn't have it. Sorry, but, it is true. Unless I loved them, then, that is different, tell me everything and I will listen. But, just saying I am sorry, that is what I like and what I would say to someone else if I didn't have it. Am I making sense???? lol

guitarmom2's picture
guitarmom2
Posts: 39
Joined: Aug 2009

It's funny, I am not much for praying, but since my diagnosis I have been so touched when people tell me that they are praying for me. The first time I cried in front of my kids was when I got a text from a friend saying that her sister was at the Wailing Wall in Israel saying a prayer for me. Then my son said that his best friend told him that his entire church was praying for me. The thought of two fourteen year old boys having that exchange was so beautiful to me.

chenheart's picture
chenheart
Posts: 5182
Joined: Apr 2003

When I see women with the tell-tale bandana ( having no sideburns or eyebrows usually gives it away ) I smile and say "I used to have that same haircut"! It usually opens up a quick conversation, and when they see how healthy I now am, I hope it gives them the needed boost.
When a neighbor got ill with cancer, he asked me about chemo. I helped him to know what to expect, without hopefully scaring the daylights out of him! I also made dinner for him and his family once a week for a couple of months. I think the biggest thing I have learned through all of this is not to shy away from Kindred Spirits~I try not to invade their personal space too much, but to acknowledge that we are warrior-survivors in common.

Hugs,
Claudia

j916's picture
j916
Posts: 142
Joined: May 2009

Chenheart...i LOVE that opening line!!! what a great icebreaker!!! i just may use it if you don't mind....this is such a great place of wonderful ideas to help each other through the many stages...
thank you!

Kylez's picture
Kylez
Posts: 3765
Joined: May 2009

If I don't have cancer and they do, I just say I am sorry. If I know them really well and love them, like a friend or family member, I do or say whatever it takes to let them know I care.

dbs1673
Posts: 205
Joined: Sep 2008

Before, I used to say "I'm sorry". Now I say, "It sucks, doesn't it! I've been on that journey and let me tell you I have met the most wonderful amazing people!"

susie09's picture
susie09
Posts: 2933
Joined: Jul 2009

I like what you say dbs1673! It sucks! lol

♠♣ Susie ♠♣

mimivac's picture
mimivac
Posts: 2147
Joined: Dec 2008

I know, it does seem like there are a whole host of things NOT to say. It's hard to figure out what you can say, even for those of us who have been there. I haven't actually had to react to anyone else's breast cancer, except on this site and other sites. Then I just think of what I needed at the time. It's not a perfect solution, but it's something to go on. As far as telling people now, I'm less inclined to do so. It's weird. Like Pammy and Teena, I was really open about it at first. I think it was b/c basically breast cancer was my life. It still is to a point, sometimes more than other times, but more and more I am trying to put it in the backgroud. More and more, I want to focus on other things and activities. It was impossible to do this before. Now, it's getting easier, although I often wonder if the beast will yank me back down again. It's a hard way to live.

Anyway, I think all of you are compassionate, wonderful ladies who have both dealt with your own serious illnesses and helped other along the way. What more can we ask?

Mimi

meena1's picture
meena1
Posts: 1005
Joined: Oct 2008

I feel good when people say they will pray for me, I believe in the healing of prayer. What i do not like to hear is "no wonder you are so skinny" or "i thought you looked terrible the last time i saw you". That was truly said to me.

elm3544's picture
elm3544
Posts: 745
Joined: Jul 2009

Some of the things on that list are just downright funny if you think about it. And some can be hurtful or aggravating. The truth is, no one knows what to say to someone going through this or anything awful. Even being there myself I am not sure I would say the right thing. I hope the list didn't upset anyone. I found it one night when I was frustrated over some things people had said and I thought, "I bet there is a list of things not to say" so me being me, I looked and found one. My hope is that one day I can look back and laugh at some of the crazy things I have heard.

fauxma's picture
fauxma
Posts: 3535
Joined: Dec 2008

Elm,
Maybe one of the things that can be said is contained in your post right here. "I just don't know what to say" and add my heart goes out to you, you are in my thoughts, you will be in my prayers, I am so sorry or whatever else seems appropriate to how well you know the person. It is a crazy tightrope to walk when you know someone with cancer, even when we have had to deal with it ourselves because each cancer is different, each person is different and each reaction to it is different. I think the less said the better. And remarks of sympathy and concern are the best. It also depends on where that person is in their journey. I am sure I would react differently at the beginning of my cancers than nearer the end of treatment. I most appreciated the ones that said, If I can do anything for you and followed through" were my favorites. Actions can truly speak louder than words. A meal for the family is nice but ask first. An offer to babysit for those with children. A friend's hubby who offers to take my guy out so he can be a little normal. A girlfriend who offers to take me out so I can feel a little normal. It's a slippery slope no matter how you look at it. I am truly only offended by those that make tactless, stupid remarks, like the free weight loss or a free boob job. The rest is just not really knowing how to react. I deal with life's challenges with humor for myself but I know that others might not. I think in most cases when you are first told by someone that they have cancer, less is more. And a gentle, gentle, hug can say it all.
Just my two cents, more like a quarter.
Stef

survivorbc09
Posts: 4378
Joined: Jun 2009

I like what you wrote Stef. The less said, the better, and a gentle hug! Or, the acts that they do without being asked, like bringing over dinner, or taking you out, or taking your husband out, those are truly appreciated. :)

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