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  • Do’s and Dont’s to a Cancer Patient

    Posted on December 6th, 2013 Michele Sun No comments

    Do you know that about 1,660,290 new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2013? And in 2013 about 580,350 Americans are projected to die of cancer, almost 1,600 people a day. Cancer remains the second most common cause of death in the US, accounting for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths. Some are

    undergoing treatment and others are living cancer free. Most of us know someone with cancer (i.e. you know me), but do you know what to say to someone who has recently been diagnosed or is in treatment for cancer?

    When cancer strikes, lots of deep emotions and concerns take it to a new level. Saying or doing the “wrong” thing takes on added significance to your friend, or family member, when they have cancer. When saying the wrong thing it impact your relationship with this person, and what you don’t say or do is equally important.

    From my own experience, here are some suggestions for what to do and what to say to a friend who has cancer.


    • If the person with cancer hasn’t told you about it personally, and if you aren’t supposed to know about it, it’s best not to say/ask anything to the person. And you shouldn’t tell anyone else about the cancer to respect their privacy.
    • If the person share his/her diagnosis, DO let them know you’ve learned about their diagnosis and have been thinking of them. If you sincerely wish to help, let them know that, too. I found lips service to be very useless, offensive and hurtful.
    • Offer your support; things you are able to do and could be very helpful — prepare a meal, take them to appointments, pick up prescriptions, pick up the kids, babysit, groceries shopping, etc. Also give some dates you are free to assist. Sending cards, flowers, balloons or small gifts are also ways to show support. I got a teddy bear from my friend Proxy and I brought it to surgery with me.
    • When talking to someone who’s just been diagnosed with cancer, it’s best to keep conversation simple. Just let the person know you care about them and how important he or she is in your life.
    • Be a good listener. Watch for cues that can let you know they want to talk about their cancer. If they don’t want to talk, respect it.
    • Do the same things together you used to before the cancer diagnosis. Most people want to be treated the same as always, but check with them about how they feel and don’t press to do anything they don’t feel up to doing. For me I wanted to feel normal, while I couldn’t go out for a run I really enjoyed the walks with Stan and Amelie; they helped me to feel like myself almost.
    • Try to be OK with silence. Sometimes the person just needs a little time to focus his/her thoughts. Constantly talking because you are nervous can be irritating. A period of silence can allow someone the chance to express more thoughts and feelings.
    • Make them laugh! People with cancer don’t always want to think or talk about their disease. I don’t want to feel like my only identity is “cancer patient.” Laughing and talking about other things are very welcome distractions.
    • Let them cry! I was holding so much fears inside of me till I cried when talking with Leter’s mom, and I didn’t know how seriously I needed that offload!
    • Touching, smiling, and warm looks are important ways to communicate. And hugs, don’t forget the HUGs!!!


    “You really find out who your friends are when you get cancer.” tough lesson…

    • Not calling (message/email). I personally did not want to answer any phone calls, but I appreciate the messages and emails I got. Then I could choose when to respond to it, or not to respond to it.
    • Not expressing concern and offering support.
    • Not staying in touch. Not sharing the course.
    • Failing to make attempts to maintain the relationship as it was before cancer. The worse kind? Bail out.
    • Dismissing fears and concerns. (“Don’t talk like that! You’re going to be just fine. You are not going to die.”)
    • Don’t try to offer/guess possible causes to their cancers. (“It’s probably what you eat. You are too stressed from your work/travel/destination races. You don’t sleep enough.”)
    • Try to avoid giving advice. He/she probably just wants you to listen.
    • Don’t tell them they don’t look sick. But do tell them they look great!
    • Don’t say, “I know how you feel.” It can anger a person because you have not been in his/her shoes, and you really don’t know how he/she feels.
    • If this person is someone you dated before, ex-partner, ex-spouse, please don’t show up with your new date/partner. That just shows how big a jerk you are, and lack of sensitivity and thoughtfulness.

    And lastly, please don’t ask “why it’s you?” Because I really don’t know!!

    p.s. If you are going to bring prepared meal, check what the diet restrictions are before hand. If this person is still in the hospital, don’t bring anything that requires wash, cut, freeze, heat-up…etc.


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