1. I know how you feel
Don’t ever say that unless you’ve been in that same situation. And even if you personally had that same cancer, everyone’s journey is different.
2. My Aunt Sue had that and it was horrible. She didn’t make it.
WHAT?! Don’t EVER tell anyone who has just been diagnosed about someone you know who had the same cancer and didn’t survive! If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I’d have bought more lottery tickets and probably won it!
3. What is your prognosis?
Let me explain to those who have never had a cancer diagnosis that when you first meet with your oncologist he/she hands you a chart with percentages of survival according to the various treatments that are available to you. I doubt that any (breast) cancer patient wants to tell someone “Well if I choose to have a mastectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy, my 10 year survival rate is 80%” No one wants to think of themselves as a statistic, so don’t pose the question.
4. Are you going to lose your hair?
Yeah this one is my all time favorite! I personally obsessed about losing my hair and I can tell you that most women facing any cancer diagnosis are not looking forward to a walk down Hair Loss Lane. No patient wants to say, “Yes I’m going to be a dead ringer for Uncle Fester’s sister in about a month.” Don’t ask the question!
5. Well, you look fine…
Well, of course they look fine! Cancer patients don’t carry around a neon sign that says “I have cancer!” Cancer for most patients is not something they can outwardly feel, point to and say, “This is my cancer.” It’s invisible to the naked eye for most but exists in their minds as their very own neon sign.
What should you say?
- “You look great!”
- “I admire how you are handling this with such grace.”
- “I’m so sorry this is happening to you.”
- “I can’t imagine how you feel.”
- “I’m going to bring over a meal to you every Tuesday night.”
Just please think before you speak. Put yourself in that person’s shoes for a minute and think about what you would like to hear.
It may be different from what you were about to say.