There is so much information about cancer in our TV ads and on the internet that it’s easy to forget it can happen to those we love. While there are a ton of cancer statistics and knowledge in our brains, none of that is helpful when talking and listening to someone with cancer.
The Listening Part
The absolute most important thing you can do for a friend, spouse, or loved one with cancer is the listening part. Be there to listen whenever the time presents itself. A cancer patient who is ready to talk wants to be heard at that moment.
Don’t interrupt! Don’t squander the time. Really listen until they are finished. You don’t always have to respond either. Sitting quietly is OK as you consider what they have shared. Words are not always necessary.
Be There For Them
Let them know in no uncertain terms that you are there for them. A big hug is a good beginning. More is conveyed in a meaningful hug than in a thousand words.
Follow it up with, “I care for you and want to help anyway I can.” Listen again, or mention a specific thing you are planning to do. Bring some books, magazines, movies you both can enjoy together, or a meal you can share. Acting normal and being yourself will put them at ease.
Spending time with them tells them a lot.
Be the friend you have always been. Nothing has changed about your relationship. If you don’t know what to say sometimes, share that. Your friend will sense if you are trying too hard and will become uneasy. Don’t treat them any differently than you did before they were diagnosed.
Suggest doing some activities you have always done together (if they are physically able).
Some Never Say Phrases
Consider these a list of things NOT to say. They might be OK for some people, but don’t take the chance.
Everything happens for a reason. Ouch! That will either get you rolling eyes, tears, or a punch in the gut.
I know how you must feel. Another thing to avoid saying unless you are going through the exact same thing.
God only gives you as much as you can handle. Now is not the time to suggest this.
If I were you… I would… Newsflash, you are not.
Yes, it’s difficult knowing the right things to say, not say, avoid, or embrace. When in doubt, ask.
Contact Southwest Diagnostic Center For Molecular Imaging in Dallas, TX to ask if they can suggest ways to comfort your friend or spouse living with cancer.