I know just how you feel.


No you probably don’t. Do not try to relate to their state of mind and how they are feeling. Even if you also had/have cancer every case is different for each person.

You need to talk.


If the patient doesn’t want to talk, then that is up to them. Do not push them. On that certain day or time talking might depress them more.

I know just what you should do.


The patient has doctors for that. Do not try to give medical advice.

I don't know how you manage.


This is a demoralizing statement, never use it. You are not making them feel any better or stronger.

How long do you have?


The only time you should get that information is if the patient brings it up and tell you. Never be the one to ask this.

Everything is going to be all right.


You don’t know this and such a statement ends up sounding like an empty platitude -- plus you establish a sense of mistrust.

Try to keep a positive attitude, relax, and avoid stress. It can help you heal.


Cancer patients hear endless variations on this "mind over body" theme. There are going to be days when a patient doesn't feel positive at all, and you certainly don't want him worrying that he's sabotaging his own chances of recovery or that they may have "caused" cancer through stress, worry, or a negative attitude

Now, now, don't get yourself all worked up.


A statement like this makes it sound as if you want him to put his feelings, which are natural and unavoidable, under wraps. A patient needs opportunities to cry or get angry or get upset, and if you can help him express these feelings and get them out, in the end he'll feel better. Just offer the comfort of your presence, a hug, or an arm around the shoulders. Allowing some silence without rushing to fill it gives the person a chance to say what's on his mind in his own time.

Boy, am I glad that's over


This implies to the patient it was a burden on you to help them and be there for them. Never use this line.

Don't give them the standard offer, "if there's anything I can do for you, please don't hesitate to give me a call."


Be specific in your offer.

When you ask patient how they are, please remember they are more than a disease. 

I know that people ask out of concern, but they may get a little tired of reciting disease progression/recession, treatment updates, symptom itemization, etc. Remember that you use to talk about normal things before cancer. Those things are still important to them.

God doesn't give us more than we can handle.


Do not imply G-d gave them cancer, and they are able to handle it. Imposing G-d on their cancer can also be harmful and they don’t want to hear it.

This reminds me of another time when so and so had cancer.


Unless it’s a good story don’t even think of saying it. It has to have a happy ending. Even still their cancer is unique to them, no one can compare to what they feel and are going through.

Everything happens for a reason.


Do not suggest there is a reason they got cancer. No patient wants to hear this.

At least you got the good kind of cancer.


Even if it’s easily treatable, there is no such thing as a good kind of cancer.

Do not discuss how or why the patient might have gotten cancer.


No patient wants to hear this. More often it ends up with you suggesting it has something to do with what the patient did or didn’t do. Don’t discuss this.






http://www.cancer.net/coping (1)

http://www.canadianliving.com/relationships/friends_and_social_life/how_to_help_loved_ones_with_cancer.php (2)

http://www.theawl.com/2011/06/actually-awesome-things-to-say-to-a-cancer-patient (3)

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-08-11/semicolon-life-cancer/56923808/1 (4)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLqHirQi_rs (5)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwF5GyU_7aw (6)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEa5epJhc8o (7)


http://www.caring.com/articles/never-say-to-someone-with-cancer (8)

“Help Me Live” (book)