When I was undergoing melanoma treatment, I encountered a lot of people who struggled to find the right words to say to me.
I get it: it's awkward. But the things you say can have a big impact on cancer patients. Some things may do more harm than good. This includes things like "My cousin's friend's nephew's aunt had that same kind of cancer. She died." Ditto for "Have your tried eating kale? I heard that gets rid of cancer."
To help make the world a kinder place for cancer patients, I got together with some friends and made a list of what to say to someone with cancer.
Here's our list.
"This really sucks!"
Preach! Cancer sucks. Chemo sucks. Radiation sucks. Surgery sucks. Being bald sucks. Chances are acknowledging this will get you a smirk from most cancer patients. Sometimes just showing a little empathy can be is a huge motivator.
"How can I help?"
But you can't stop there. Most cancer patients will tell you everything's fine, even though they could really use your help with something small. So just help. Try something. Show up at 9 to drive us to our 10 a.m. appointment. Have we mentioned that we don't feel like cooking? Pop over around dinner time with some grub! Even if your idea is a total fail, try. We love and recognize the supportive gestures.
"You look beautiful!"
You can never go wrong with this one. Feel free to substitute "handsome" or "great" depending on the person.
"I don't know what to say."
It may not seem like the right thing to say, but trust me, this is fine. We know it's awkward. Try telling people, "I have cancer." We get it. This is 100 times better than saying nothing at all. Promise.
"Have you watched (insert name of latest TV show)?"
You don't have to talk about TV shows, if that's not you're thing. The point is, we're still us. Talk to us like you normally would, about the things you normally would. We still want to hear about your work drama or your kid who smears poop on the wall. I still want you to bring over ice cream and nail polish when you're going through a breakup. We get sick of cancer and just want things to be normal.