I’ve deliberated for some time as to whether to write this post on the things not to say to someone with cancer.
When it comes to what to say to people with cancer, I really do understand how hard it can be for you to find the words.
And I just didn’t want to offend anyone by writing this.
I recently wrote a post on how to talk to someone with cancer and if you know anyone who has recently been diagnosed, you might find that helpful.
But what do you say to someone who has cancer?
Well, here are eight things NOT to say to someone with cancer – or not to me please :)
The WRONG words for someone with cancer
1. I’m so sorry
I’ll start with the most common phrase used on what to say to someone just diagnosed with cancer.
And I’ll hold my hands up and say that I’m sure to have used this myself many times before my own cancer diagnosis.
Think about it though from my perspective and how it comes across – it isn’t a particularly positive or helpful thing to say in isolation. To me it sounds like “I’m sooooooooo sooooorrrrrrryyyyyyy”. The End.
And I think, oh great, thanks. You’ve clearly written me off then, I’ll start digging my own grave now!
Of course, I know it is never intended to come across this way but it might sound just a little dismissive to whoever is on the receiving end.
2. My Aunty/Great Grandmother/Neighbour’s Sister’s Dog had cancer and they died.
Seriously? Seriously?! I mean, thanks a bloody lot. We can all think of someone who has died of cancer and whilst I’m terribly sorry for your loss I do not want to hear this!
You’d be surprised at how many people say this – or I certainly am. This is not how to support a friend with cancer, it just makes them feel bad.
3. You’ll be ok, they’re coming up with new cures every day!
Now I like your intentions here, you’re being positive, you’re trying to come up with something uplifting but just bear in mind that the new medical breakthrough you’re reading about today is highly unlikely to be of benefit to me. In fact, it probably has decades, or at least years, of trials and testing in front of it before the general public get a pop at it so really, it isn’t going to save my life.
It goes without saying I know but YAY for future people diagnosed, they will benefit. Just not me unfortunately unless I’m lucky enough to have access to a trial.
These are only comforting words for cancer patients if it will actually help them. I do get that you’re just doing your best at supporting someone with cancer though.
4. It’s only hair! (when it falls out after chemo)
Bugger right off. It is NOT only hair – it’s my hair. Next person who says this gets a punch in the balls.
This is not what to say to a friend with cancer.
5. My Aunty/Great Grandmother/Neighbour’s Sister’s Dog had chemo and they didn’t have your symptoms.
Um, is it a competition? Am I not stacking up against those valiant and brave chemo heroes who went before me?
Lucky them! I would love to be Super Mim who sailed through chemo and thought it a walk in the park. No such luck and that’s fine, I know I’m not the only one who struggles with it.
Let’s not make it competitive though, hey?
6. You need to be positive!
Oh right, thanks for telling me to be positive! Oh without you to TELL me to be positive, I suppose I would have been, what exactly? Negative? Shut up.
I know you think these are uplifting words for cancer patients but it doesn’t come across that way.
Of course, I’m going to be positive but let me tell you that 75% of the time I’m pretending to be positive. Fake it til you make it and all that.
I’m a pretty positive person but even I have my limits and cancer has its moments of being anything but positive and happy. I’m trying though, I’m getting through it.
I do like it when people commend me for already being positive though – this is lovely positive reinforcement of my, um, positivity. Words of encouragement for cancer patients are much needed by many.
7. You have to stay alive for your kids
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told this. What do they think I’m doing, planning my own burial? Ignoring the fact that I have two tiny children who need their mother to be around for at least another hundred years?
My children are at the forefront of my mind every second of every day, especially since my diagnosis. I don’t need you to tell me to stay alive for them, I’m desperately doing that already. Don’t give me any more reason to feel guilty for rocking my family’s world.
I can forgive all of the above points for the simple fact that every single time I’ve been told one of them, it’s come with love and from someone who is desperately trying to find the right words to say to me.
Saying nothing doesn’t send a positive message for cancer patient. Words of encouragement for cancer patients are needed to just let them know they’re not alone.
It takes guts to talk to someone with cancer, whether they’re your partner, best friend, Mum, colleague or stranger you’ve just met. You’re scared that what you’re going to say isn’t going to be right or is going to upset them. You don’t want to be too dismissive or too emotional.
You don’t want to say someone so wrong it ends up in a post like this one! Sorry sorry :)
BUT you’ve said something and whether it helped or not, I’m grateful to you for trying to say the right thing and for being there for me.
Knowing how to support someone with cancer is hard.
What I can’t really forgive is silence. Those people who stay away from you, I suppose until the cancer is over and we can all pretend everything’s ok again.
The very worst thing you can say to someone with cancer is nothing at all.
And now this is starting to sound like a Ronan Keating ballad.
Things Not to Say to Someone with Cancer
I hope my tips on what to say to someone diagnosed with cancer has helped.
Thanks for allowing me to, well have a bit of a rant really. Thank you to everyone who has sent me well wishes and messages of support. Messages for cancer patients can be just quick check ins.
What to write to someone with cancer
If you’re wondering what to write to someone who has cancer in a message, I would recommend asking them how they are today and if there’s anything you can do to help them. I know it isn’t easy otherwise to find the words for a message to someone with cancer – but they’ll be grateful you tried.
For ideas on what to write in a card for someone with cancer, I would just try to convey that you love them and you’re there for them.
Getting a card for someone with cancer is a lovely idea. Knowing how to encourage someone with cancer is all about making them feel less alone and hopeless.
You might have some words of encouragement for healing even.
Gift Ideas for someone with cancer
You can also get ideas for gifts for someone with cancer here. I’ve suggested five thoughtful gifts for someone with cancer – I personalised loved these gifts. They might help you with ideas on what to send someone with cancer.
I hope you now have some ideas for what not to say to a cancer patient.
If you’ve said one of the phrases above to me or someone else with cancer, don’t feel bad, we know it was meant with love.
If you are stuck for what to say to someone who has cancer, you might find this post on what to say to a cancer patient helpful. It has tips on what to say to someone going through chemo too.
If you or a loved one would like to know how to help someone with cancer, get in touch with Cancer Council NSW here. They have phenomenal support for cancer patients and cancer support for families. They are also available for help with how to help a friend with cancer.
Do you have any tips on what to say to someone with cancer? Or any ideas for encouraging words for someone with cancer?
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- My Triple Negative Breast Cancer diagnosis and treatment
- One year after my Breast Cancer diagnosis
- A Gift Idea for Cancer Patients
- 5 Gift Ideas for Cancer Patients – great ideas for gifts for people with cancer.
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I hope my tips on the things NOT to say to someone with cancer has helped you.