When someone close to you, a friend or even just an acquaintance is diagnosed with cancer it can be hard to know what to say. You want to say the right thing, but what if it comes out wrong? You want to be there for them, but how? If you’re supporting someone with cancer but you are stuck for words, sometimes admitting, “I don’t know what to say” can be the best way forward.
When I was diagnosed back in 2014 most people didn’t know what to say or just said the wrong thing. Hopefully if you know someone going through treatment right now then this will help. So here’s a list of things you shouldn’t say to a cancer patient..
“THINGS WILL GET BETTER”
Okay. This was probably one of the worst things that was said to me. I know things will get better but right now I’m losing my hair, being pumped full of drugs and really don’t want to hear it. I’m just trying to fight for my life..
“HAVE YOU TRIED ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS”
The MOST annoying thing ever. People asking if you have thought about alternative treatments or natural remedies. Just NO. When you are going through cancer you don’t want to hear about vitamins and oils that could cure cancer.
“YOU DON’T LOOK SICK”
Another personal favourite. A lot of people don’t “look” like they have cancer but just because you can’t see the side effects of the cancer or treatment doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
“HOW ARE YOU FEELING?”
It’s a perfectly fine question but when asked every hour or so it can get annoying. I know people can mean well but I’m not going to be feeling good for at last six months.
“I FEEL SICK TOO”
Please don’t complain about how sick you are to me. I’m so sorry that you have a cold, or are struggling with being tired. Really, I am.
“I HOPE THIS IS OVER FOR YOU SOON”
Yes, someone actually said this to me. Cancer will stay with me for the rest of my life so no it won’t be over for me soon..
“YOU HAVE THE GOOD KIND OF CANCER”
First things first there is NO good cancer. Nobody enjoys being poisoned every week and losing clumps of hair every time you wake up. Also if you didn’t know chemo and radiation give you a higher chance of developing a secondary cancer.
“I KNOW SOMEONE WHO DIED OF THAT”
Another no, no. Please don’t share a cancer story with a bad outcome. It’s probably the last thing a person going through treatment wants to hear.
Thanks for the support but sometimes you can’t just be positive all the time. It doesn’t exactly help so just don’t.
“SO, YOU’RE ALL BETTER NOW, RIGHT?”
Honestly this one for me was the WORST. People often don’t realise you are left with so many long term side effects of cancer. After I finished treatment I was left depressed, scarred and tired and I still am even more than 2 years post. Even though life appears to be returning to normal it never will be ‘normal’ again.
“I THOUGHT CHEMO WAS SUPPOSED TO MAKE YOU LOSE WEIGHT”
Nope. I was on steroids so I was eating like 5 times a day and put on about a stone although I needed too because I had lost so much weight before I was diagnosed.
“JUST BE GRATEFUL YOU DON’T HAVE (INSERT ANOTHER FORM OF) CANCER”
Comparing cancers is not helpful so just don’t say it. No matter what type of cancer you have and no matter the stage, it’s a life-altering diagnosis.
“IF THERE’S ANYTHING I CAN DO, JUST LET ME KNOW”
Okay, so this is kind but it’s not so great because then I have to figure out what I can say and then having the burden to ask. I don’t want to make you go out of your way to help. I also hate making decisions..
“WE DIDN’T ASK YOU TO COME BECAUSE WE DIDN’T THINK YOU WOULD BE UP FOR IT”
So I get why people would say this and honestly most days I was just in bed recovering from treatment but it would be nice to just be asked. Cancer can make you feel so lonely.
“WILL YOU LOSE YOUR HAIR”
Ermm. Yes but I kinda don’t want to talk about it. It’s a massive thing for a woman to lose their hair and go bald. Well to me it was anyway..
“OH, I’M SO SORRY. I WISH I COULD TAKE IT AWAY”
“I KNOW EXACTLY HOW YOU FEEL”
Unless you’ve been through cancer no you don’t know how I’m feeling. You have literally no idea.