What Cancer Patients Really Want to Hear

 In Cancer Support

It may be challenging to know what to say to a friend or family member with cancer. You want them to know how much you care and support them, but finding the right words can be hard. Cancer is such a life-changing diagnosis, it can be difficult to watch a loved one go through a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

According to the American Cancer Society, studies show that cancer patients with strong emotional support tend to adjust better to the many changes the disease brings to their lives. They often have a more positive outlook and describe a better quality of life. Showing your support can make a big difference in the life of someone with cancer.

Here are a few things cancer patients really want to hear from their friends and family to know they have your support.

“I don’t know what to say, but I’m here for you.”

It’s okay to simply tell your loved one you are there for them. Many cancer patients experience loneliness and isolation when their friends and family don’t come around out of fear of not saying the right thing and feeling uncomfortable. Instead of avoiding the situation, be straightforward while showing your support. Not knowing what to say is normal, and your honesty will be appreciated. There is no need to feel pressure about finding the perfect words. All a cancer patient wants to hear is that you are there for them.

“Let me help you with…”

A cancer diagnosis can turn even the most independent person into someone who needs constant help from others. Instead of hearing “What can I do?” cancer patients want to hear that you already have a specific task in mind. Many cancer patients will decline needing help when they are asked the broad question “What can I help with?” Choose something specific and get started on it. There are many things you can do to help, including:

  • Run errands
  • Provide meals
  • Babysit their children or pets
  • Clean their home
  • Care for their lawn
  • Buy groceries
  • Give rides
  • Pick up prescriptions
  • Help make to-do lists

Choosing one of these tasks and doing it every week will alleviate stress on the cancer patient, knowing you have it taken care of.  

“Let’s celebrate!”

Although cancer patients may often feel as if they have very little to celebrate, it is essential for them to experience positive emotions and celebrate milestones or even ordinary events. Whether they have just completed surgery, chemo or other treatment, help them keep their spirits up by honoring that stage of their journey. Don’t assume they want to skip their birthday celebrations just because they are in the hospital. Bring the party to them, always asking first to make sure they are up for it. A small celebration with friends and family can improve a patient’s mood and give him or her a brighter outlook on the steps ahead.

“What else is going on?”

Sometimes all cancer patients want to talk about is something other than their cancer. Ask questions like “What else have you been up to lately?” so your loved one can take a break from talking about their disease. Having an everyday conversation is often the best gift you can give a cancer patient who is desperately wanting to feel normal again.

“What can I do for your caretaker?”

A cancer patient’s caretaker can be easily forgotten by the patient’s family and friends. While the patient is going through a painful time, caring for a cancer patient can be stressful and demanding for the caregiver. Asking a cancer patient what you can do to make their caretaker’s life easier can be extremely important. Allowing them to have the day off or treating them to something special can encourage them and help them remain strong for the patient.

For more help or tips, visit the American Cancer Society’s website – How to Be a Friend to Someone With Cancer

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