Cancer: I don’t know what to say or do!
I know how that feels, before Brendan had cancer I didn’t either. Maybe I still wouldn’t if given the news that someone else I know, love, or care about has cancer. But here are just a few tips that I can share through personal experience, that may help you if you find yourself talking to someone newly diagnosed or living with cancer .
- First and foremost try and keep in mind that they are exactly the same person they always have been and will continue to enjoy the same conversations, having said that they may not feel well enough to even have a conversation at times. Where you can, communicate with their carer about visits, keep them short and avoid dropping in without notice.
- Understand that you can’t fix this for them. Avoid offering advice on treatments, conventional or otherwise, that you may have heard helped someone else. Cancer is a multifaceted disease and if there was a cure all – frankly everyone would be cured. What works for one may not work for everyone. When a cancer diagnosis is given, time is a luxury that may have been lost – when it comes to experimenting with the multitude of therapies you read about. I can guarantee you most people diagnosed have, or their carer and family members have combed the internet before they have let anyone else know there has been a diagnosis.
- Try not to ask direct questions about their diagnosis or treatment. Think about putting something like “I hope” in front of anything you think appropriate to say…. “I hope your treatment is going well,” rather than “how is your treatment going?” This gives the person you are talking to the opportunity to answer simply by saying “It is thank you,” or go into detail with you if they have the energy to.
- Avoid comparing what they are going through to others who you may feel are worse off. And never say “at least you’re alive,” it can come across as diminishing what they are going through. It’s OK to think those things, but save that conversation for someone that hasn’t got cancer. I can guarantee that every adult with cancer knows how awful it would be for a child with cancer, or that someone has been lost to cancer, they don’t need it hear it. Even when it comes with good intentions.
- If you want to help out there are plenty of practical ways to do that, so talk to those closest to the cancer suffer and find out the best way to go about it – that way things don’t seem to get as overwhelming for the patient.
- txt messages in un-urgent circumstances are probably the best form of communication with the patient, carer and close family members–as they don’t tend to panic the person or those around them if calls are missed. They can then return messages when they have time. Things get incredibly hectic and taxing for everyone where cancer is involved.
- Food wonderful food is such a blessing and one of the really practical, helpful things you can do, especially in the early stages. My best tip here is if you are leaving food for anyone, don’t put it in a container you want back, because sometimes there will be that many containers that no one will know who owns what. If food drops can be coordinated with a carer or family member – that’s even better, as freezer space can become a problem.
- If you feel sick, or have a viral infection of any kind, avoid visiting a friend having cancer treatment. Their immune system is compromised which means that they can easily catch what you have and that might be dangerous for them. If unsure message them, or ring their carer or a close family member to make sure a visit will be OK.
- Carry on as normal, your loved one/ family member, friend or acquaintance is living with cancer, try not to treat them otherwise. Continue as you always have, I think normality all wrapped up in love and compassion is really important to recovery.
- Know that just showing you care, sending out a prayer or positive thought is enough.
- Hugs … when words fail you – hug! And when they don’t – well, hug then too!
I hope these tips can help you negotiate what can be a very difficult path when someone you know and care about finds out that they have cancer. There are probably 101 other tips that can be added…if you have one that has worked for you please add it to comments.
calliemm.com covers many topics, the main focus however is to spread awareness of the rare/uncommon cancer my husband Brendan has…