We have all been there – not finding the right thing to say or not knowing how to help a friend or relative who is diagnosed with cancer.
Elena Miller was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 when she was doing psychiatry residency in UCLA. She writes about her experience in her blog http://zenpsychiatry.com/. She has put together a quick start guide to help with communication. It addresses the needs of both the patients and their friends and family members.
She points out that when a person first gets a cancer diagnosis, they’re often so overwhelmed they have no idea how to ask for help or what to ask for — but they sure need it. If you have a friend or family member with cancer you want to help, don’t make the mistake of making a vague, questionably-sincere offer.
Send a quick email, text, or message saying you’re thinking of them. Add “No need to respond” to the end of your message—they’ll appreciate hearing from you without feeling the need to do anything in return.
Do not make their cancer about you! Do not give advice but listen. Avoid speaking in cliches like “everything happens for a reason”, “every cloud has a silver lining”.
Cancer isn’t contagious—give your friend a hug to let them know you’re on their side.