Last week I wrote a bit more on what NOT to say so this week I want to write about what to say instead.
When someone first got the news that they have cancer, there is silence for a bit as the words sink in. Some people start to cry, other hold the hand of the person that is there with them and many look at the doctor and say “What?” The doctor then repeats “You have cancer”. They will add what kind of cancer “You have Breast Cancer, or you have Multiple Myeloma Cancer.” But first there is silence.
So Be Silent.
1. Be silent, look at your friend and be still for a few seconds. Then say something like “I’m so very sorry”. Give them a hug and if you are close enough cry together.
2. It’s OK to ask “How did they find it?” or “I’m sorry, I’ve never heard of that cancer, where is it?”
3. It’s OK to ask “I’ve never heard of that cancer, can you tell me more about it?”
4. It’s OK to ask “When did you find out?” Some people wait a long time to let the cat out of the bag as it were. If they don’t look or act sick, you might never have known.
5. It’s OK to ask “Have you met your Oncologist yet and what was your first impression?”
6. It’s Ok to ask “What's your a plan of attack?”
7. It’s OK to ask “While on treatment, what foods should you not eat or what foods can you have to help boost your immune system?”
8. It’s OK to ask “You have someone going with you to the doctor’s, right?”
9. It’s OK to ask “Did you tell your boss and are they willing to help you?”
10. It’s OK to ask “Did they warn you of any side effects?”
11. It's OK to ask "How are you doing today?"
See, what’s happening here? You don’t make any judgments about them or the type of cancer they have. You don’t comment on how they look right now. Remember, to the person with cancer, it’s all bad news. You don’t tell those stories of others with cancer, you listen to their story. You ask questions, let them answer. You get a feel for how they are doing, how scared they are. You get a feel for how much they know now and how much they don’t know yet. You get a feel for how much they like their team of doctors or not. You be a friend.
Thursday, I’ll have a list of ways you can help your friend – many are free!!