What Not To Say To A Cancer Patient
Sometimes it can be easier to know the right things to say than what not to say. Don’t get too caught up in trying to say the right thing. Just try to have a natural conversation. Still, there are a few things to avoid:
- Dont make it about you or compare it to something you have been through.
- If they dont want to talk, dont force the issue. Just let them know that you are available when and if they want to.
- Dont try to find the positives. There isnt much of a silver lining to a blood cancer diagnosis, so avoid saying things like, It could be worse, or, “At least it isnt… For the person with the disease, this probably is the worst-case scenario.
- Dont express overly pessimistic opinions.
- Avoid saying things that minimize what the patient is going through such as Dont worry, Everything is going to be OK or Cheer up.
- Nobody deserves to get cancer. Even if you believe that the persons lifestyle choices contributed to their disease, or if you think it was Gods will that this happened, keep it to yourself.
Dont leave if things get tough. If the person gets angry, let them vent. If they tell you they’re afraid, open up the conversation so they can unload on you. What are you most afraid of?What can I do to help with your fears? These situations can be hard to manage, if you let the patient do the talking, you don’t need to worry about what to say.
Dont Say At Least Youll Get A Great Boob Job
Other despised variations: Oooh free boob job! Well, at least youll have awesome new boobs! Youll be able to go topless on the beach with your new breasts!
As one friend told me, Although I laughed over some boobs jokes and made a few myself to take off some of the pressure, a mastectomy is not a boob job. She stressed that its a way more painful process with very different end results, such as a major loss of sensation. Moreover, she said, its not something I chose to do, as with people who elect to undergo plastic surgery.
Noted another woman, Id gladly keep my saggy breasts that fed my children and helped in other ways than to get a boob job. I never wanted one. I was happy with my breasts.
Others resent questions like, What size will your new ones be? which come with the assumption that they will be getting reconstruction, when many women, in fact, opt to go flat. And when they do, theres a whole new set of unwelcome comments that can follow, like, Dont they make fake ones? or But how does your husband feel about it? or Of course you want reconstruction youre not old and you can still feel like a woman! As that woman replied to her breast surgeon Im 58, and I still do feel like a woman.
Getting Help For Depression
Depression can be treated. Below are common signs of depression. If you have any of the following signs for more than 2 weeks, talk to your doctor about treatment. Be aware that some of these symptoms could be due to physical problems, so it’s important to talk about them with your doctor.
- fatigue that doesn’t go away
- headaches, other aches and pains
If your doctor thinks that you suffer from depression, they may give you medicine to help you feel less tense. Or they may refer you to other experts. Don’t feel that you should have to control these feelings on your own. Getting the help you need is important for your life and your health.
Recommended Reading: What Is A Malignant Neoplasm Of Breast
Remember It Isnt Just Hair That They Might Lose Its Their Hair
That hair is a part of them so try not to be too dismissive. Offer sympathy, dont bombard them with ideas of how they should deal with the hair loss.
Ask if they have a plan of how to manage it, ask if they want you to do any research for them, or to go to the hairdressers or help choose a wig.
Offer to shave your own hair off! They wont take you up on it but theyll be blown away that youve offered.
Just, um, be prepared to follow through if they DO take you up on it! And what a bloody brilliant person you are if you do ha ha!
Stay Positive As Much As You Possibly Can
I know its sometimes much easier said than done but speak positively as much as possible. Dont tell them how sad you are, how awful it is, how youre scared for them these are your emotions to deal with.
Youre completely entitled to them and theyre so legitimate but try not to inflict them on to that person.
Except in the early diagnosis days of course when lets face it, everyones a balling mess! There are also bound to be other times you all break down together along the way.
Do make sure you look after your own mental well-being by talking to your other friends and family and stay positive for yourself.
Supporting someone with cancer is tough. And it does not simply affect the person diagnosed with it, its everyone close to them too. Be kind to yourself. Try to keep a positive outlook for you as well as them.
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Text Messages To Send Someone With Cancer
Social Media Addict, LGBTQ+ Advocate, Feminist, Cancer Activist
Many people underestimate the possibilities of offering support through text messages.
I was only six weeks old when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since then, my life has been an endless cycle of Im so sorry to hear that and I know someone with cancer, too.
When I was growing up, people would constantly ask me how she was doing. It was always awkward.
Of course, most people still didnt know what to say, what to ask or how to do it. How is she? was still code for Is she still alive?
It was worse when someone asked me in person. Between avoiding eye contact and a longer-than-necessary pause after the question, the whole conversation felt forced.
Sometimes, no response was the best thing I could offer someone, and thats okay. Dont always expect your loved one to get back to you right away. You can even message that: No response needed.
I do that with my mom all the time. Yes, shes still alive. In fact, shes going on 23 years as a breast cancer survivor, but shes not in the clear. Every week, she undergoes chemotherapy every six months, scans are taken. Time hasnt necessarily made it easier, but technology certainly has.
While it is not always easy, I try to check in as much as possible.
Special Considerations For The Workplace
Breast cancer diagnosis and treatment affects everyone differently. How your colleague is dealing with their diagnosis is a personal thing, although she is probably experiencing physical andemotional distress on some level.
The best way to help your colleague will depend on the type of work she does, the kind of treatment she is undertaking and whether or not she needs or wants to work.
Some women return to work as quickly as possible because they crave the normality and companionship that work offers. Others need time away from work to deal with breast cancer and its treatment. If youre not sure what will help your colleague, you may find the following suggestions useful:
Read Also: Stage Four Breast Cancer Symptoms
Relationships With Friends And Family
It’s not always easy to talk about cancer, either for you or your family and friends. You may sense that some people feel awkward around you or avoid you.
Being open about how you feel and what your family and friends can do to help may put them at ease. However, do not be afraid to tell them that you need some time to yourself if that’s what you need.
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‘moving On’ Can Be Hard
Treatment is over, and there are no signs of cancer. Thatâs great news, but some people still may have some mental healing to do. Your loved one may show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, like not sleeping well or having crying fits. They may constantly check for lumps and bumps. Instead of telling them to âget back to normal,â urge them to talk to their doctor. Medications, therapy, and other treatments can help.
Also Check: Chemo For Metastatic Breast Cancer
What Ways Do You Show Your Love
Weve said it before and well say it again: it is tough to know what to say when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer. We completely understand that not everyone wants to hear the same thing, and what makes one person smile may not be as helpful for another. That being said, we hope a few of these statements resonate with you and make it easier to comfort your loved one.
And if you have any additional ideas, please share them. Wed love to hear what words have helped you.
Being Unsure What To Say Is Normal
First, its OK if you don’t know what to say to your friend. There are no classes on how to support someone who has cancer or how to respond to the news of a diagnosis. Its understandable, on both sides, to be at a loss for words.
Once the shock subsides a little, Lewis and Sade recommend fighting the impulse to jump into helper mode, offering to bring meals, run errands, clean the house, schedule appointments and other tasks. Many people, especially women, want to manage things immediately and pull out all the stops to keep a friends life as normal as possible, as if nothings different.
It’s best to resist that urge.
The patient needs to know theyre in charge. Their life has just spun out of control, says Sade, a Resource Center Coordinator who fought both breast cancer and metastatic melanoma.
Instead, ask how you can help and how they are doing. Even more important, listen closely to the answers, she recommends.
Read Also: Third Stage Breast Cancer
I’m Here If You Need To Talk
If they don’t seem open to talking in person you can write them a card, send them a text or email, or give them a phone call.
“The kindest thing came from my surgeon. He knew I was feeling very alone since I live abroad so he used to go every night and morning to see me and would give me his hand and stayed there listening to my complaints, fears and let me cry.” – glam
What are some of the most meaningful things someone has said to you? Feel free to share meaningful comments or nice things others have done for you through your journey.
Support Your Partners True Feelings
Most cancer patients feel pressure to maintain a positive mental attitude, and too often this pressure prevents them from expressing their true feelings. Your partner might hold back in sharing legitimate fears because he or she does not want to disappoint or burden you, or because he or she thinks that negative emotions might jeopardize healing. Actually, it is the suppression of fears, sorrow, or anger that could jeopardize your partners psychological adjustment and immune response. Your loved one probably has good reasons to be worried and upset, as well as to feel hopeful and optimistic. You should try to support and validate both sets of emotions .
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Keeping Personal Health Records
You and your doctor should work together to develop a personalized follow-up care plan. Be sure to discuss any concerns you have about your future physical or emotional health. ASCO offers forms to help keep track of the cancer treatment you received and develop a survivorship care plan when treatment is completed. At the conclusion of active treatment, ask your doctor to provide you with a treatment summary and a survivorship care plan.
This is also a good time to talk with your doctor about who will lead your follow-up care. Some survivors continue to see their oncologist, while others transition back to the care of their family doctor, another health care professional, or a specialized survivorship clinic. This decision depends on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, side effects, health insurance rules, and your personal preferences.If a doctor who was not directly involved in your cancer care will lead your follow-up care, be sure to share your cancer treatment summary and survivorship care plan forms with them and with all future health care providers. Details about your cancer treatment are very valuable to the health care professionals who will care for you throughout your lifetime.
The next section in this guide is Survivorship. It describes how to cope with challenges in everyday life after a cancer diagnosis. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.
Understand If They Say ‘no’
People going through treatment or recovering from surgery have a limited amount of energy and need to spend it wisely. Sometimes, they have to turn down an invitation or cancel plans. They’re not trying to ditch you — their body probably needs a reboot. Take a raincheck for a day when they’re feeling more rested.
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My Aunt Lost Both Her Breasts And Died
This may seem obvious, but sometimes we blurt out a negative story in the shock of the moment. Try to take a moment to pause before responding with something like this.
Thats just setting people into an alarm state, and thats not helpful, says Muradian.
Though your concerns are valid, they wont help your friend.
They Need A ‘wingman’
Itâs easy for someone with breast cancer to get overwhelmed by the decisions they have to make. They might need your help to understand it all. Offer to go along to important doctorâs appointments to take notes and ask questions. Having another set of ears in the room may ease their mind. You can offer to drive them to chemotherapy or radiation sessions, too.
Recommended Reading: Treatment For Stage 4 Breast Cancer
New Developments In Cancer Research
Progress in the field.In recent years, advancements in research have changed the way cancer is treated. Here are some recent updates:
Pancreatic cancer.Scientists are exploring whether the onset of diabetes may be an early warning sign of pancreatic cancer, which is on track to become the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. by 2040.
Chemotherapy.A quiet revolution is underway in the field of cancer treatment: A growing number of patients, especially those with breast and lung cancers, are being spared the dreaded treatment in favor of other options.
Prostate cancer.An experimental treatment that relies on radioactive molecules to seek out tumor cells prolonged life in men with aggressive forms of the disease the second-leading cause of cancer death among American men.
Leukemia.After receiving a new treatment, called CAR T cell therapy, more than a decade ago, two patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia saw the blood cancer vanish. Their cases offer hope for those with the disease, and create some new mysteries.
Esophageal cancer.Nivolumab, a drug that unleashes the immune system, was found to extend survival times in patients with the disease who took part in a large clinical trial. Esophageal cancer is the seventh most common cancer in the world.
This is the first of two columns on living with a life-changing disease.
What To Say To Someone With Cancer Post
Completing treatment is an accomplishment, but it’s essential to know that completion does not mean it’s over. Everyone who has had cancer must continue to get checked and live with the fact that recurrence is a possibility, which can cause PTSD and anxiety.
“Completing treatment feels like running an uphill marathon for a year straight with no days off,” Britton said. “Acknowledge and honor the journey they’ve walked with deep compassion and love. They are likely to be exhausted and just need loving-kindness and support. Ask how they’d like to celebrate in honor of completion.”
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They Shared Both What They Wish People Would Stop Saying To Them And What They Wish They Would Say
When one in eight Canadian women are affected by breast cancer in their lifetime, this is valuable information for all of us.
Mercedes Buhagiar was diagnosed in March 2016 at the age of 31 with stage III lobular breast cancer.
I wish friends and family would stop saying you look so great while I was going through treatment. First reason I felt like in one sentence, they minimized everything I was going through. Secondly, even if I did actually look good, it took all my energy to fake that as much as I could. I was being positive and looking great so everyone else around me would feel better that I had cancer.
I wish instead of assuming that I looked great, genuinely ask me how Im feeling. Let me steer the conversation and let me tell you how Im doing.
At only 24-years-old, Julie Vickaryous is one of Canadas youngest breast cancer survivors.
This sounds ungrateful, and I dont mean it that way at all, howevertelling a cancer patient that theyre brave, strong etc. is a tad overdone in my opinion. Ive been crying in doctors offices and they try and talk you down from your sadness by telling you how well youve done and how strong you are. The brutal truth about cancer is that you have no choice but to be strong, because your other option is giving up.
Emily Piercell was diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer at the age of 27 on August 26, 2015, the summer after she graduated from law school.
On the other hand, these are the things they should say.