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What Not To Say To A Cancer Patient

It can be really difficult to know what to say to someone with cancer. Unless you’ve been through it yourself it's impossible to understand what they are thinking and how they are feeling. Were talked before about what kinds of things you should say to cancer patients - including practical support that could actually help. Today we’re going to look at the opposite side of the coin and stop you from making an insensitive blunder. Here are the kind of things you shouldn't ask a cancer patient.


One of the most heart-breaking things a lot of cancer patients go through is losing friendships. People feel so awkward and nervous about talking to someone struggling with cancer that they choose to ignore it, or just fade from their friend’s life. But relieving a cancer diagnosis can be absolutely devastating, and they need all the support they can get. So now is the time to swallow that worry and show up. If you don't know what to say, the best thing to do is be honest! tell them 'I don't know what to say, but I'm here for you! Cancer is an incredibly isolating experience, and one of the worst things you can do is say nothing at all.

Don't Minimize Things

A positive attitude can go a long way in the fight against cancer, but it's important that you don't end up minimizing their experiences. Try not to say "Don't worry, you'll be fine. 1. You don't know that, and neither do they. Avoid saying things like they have 'the good concert if their cancer type is more treatable. No cancer is good, and the treatability doesn't change the fact that they have cancer. Instead, you can say 'I'm really sorry' or 'I hope it will be ok'.

Don't Be Intrusive

We know we said 'don't say nothing'. but you don't want to go too far m the other direction either. try to avoid asking intrusive questions, about their numbers or tumour markers. If they want to discuss the details of their condition and treatment with you give them the space to do so, but on their own terms. And as a general rule, avoid asking personal questions that you wouldn't have asked before their diagnosis., particularly when it comes to sex, religion or funeral arrangements.

Don’t Preach

We all like to give advice, but when it comes to cancer patients, this is something you want to avoid. As hard as it might be, don't tell them what to think, how to feel or how to act. Unless you've been there yourself, you don't know what they're going through. so instead of saying "I know how you feel', try 'I care about you and want to help.' Don't suggest (or bombard them with) alternative treatments, and don't tell them to 'stay positive - it will only cause frustration and guilt.

Don't Comment On Their Appearance

This should go without saying, but don't make comments about how a cancer patient looks -particularly if they are negative. You might think you're being nice, but they likely find their weight loss as something unwelcome or even traumatic. They don't need you to point out their hair loss, jaundice or waxy skin. Similarly, if they have just started treatment, don't ask them about potential side effects. They will be worrying about all of these things enough, without the added anxiety of worrying other people will notice. If you must say something, tell them that they look beautiful or stronger than ever before.

Avoid Comparisons

Everyone’s cancer journey is different, and everyone processes it in their own way. There is absolutely no value in comparing them to your other friend or family member who had cancer. Don't bring up the private medical problems of other people you know. Don't talk about the friend who ran a marathon while going through chemo, or who never missed a day of work no matter how awful they felt. And no talking about 'the odds' or prognosis unless they bring it up first. Just let your loved one be themselves.

We may have come across a bit harsh in some of those points, but at Jills' Fundraising Journey not only were we personally affected by cancer, but we speak to people with cancer and their loved ones every day. And we hear stories of friends and family saying all of these things and the impact they have on cancer patients. So the moral of the story is, 'think before you speak', and put the person with cancer first.


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