If you have a friend or relative who has recently been diagnosed with cancer, or is living with cancer, you may be wondering what to say to them. Even though you want to help them through this difficult time, it can be hard to know what to say or do. While there are no set rules here are a few tips that may help you.



I'm sorry this has happened to you.


Let them know through this that you care and feel for them.

If you ever feel like talking, I am here to listen. (1)

Let them know you are there for them, whenever they need someone to talk to. This shows they are not alone.

What are you thinking of doing, and how can I help?


May make them more motivated to doing something knowing they have the help.

I care about you/I love you.


These words can lift their spirits up. Knowing people care for you and are loved can do wonders for a person.

I don’t know what to say.


For cases where you don’t know how to react or respond, it is better to be honest than to simply stop calling or visiting out of fear.

Talk about old times often.


CAUTION: Some people might feel uncomfortable with this because it may seem you are talking about old times because the patient is dying or by talking about old times make it like they will die, so let’s start reminiscing now. In some cases that may be the case but the person might love talking about old times. In some cases the person may not be dying, but still loves to reminisce about old times. This may be a judgment call. To add to this, make photo albums of old pictures. Take old video recording and put it on a DVD.

When you talk of making plans, don’t just offer, be very specific. (2)

This will motivate the patient to be active. To have a plan, not just a suggestion to “do something”. Have something in mind already.

May I pray for you?

Many people find it comforting to know you're praying for them. But the rare person who asks the patient instead of TELLING them they're praying for them usually always gets a big fat yes. As long as you're not shoving your religious views down their throat, they are happy for you to pray if it comforts you to do so. Unless you know your friend shares your religious views, ask how they'd feel about having you pray for them.

What's going to be the hard part for you?


CAUTION: judge the situation and if you are close enough to the patient to talk of something so personal. As heard from a patient “one friend went right to the heart of the matter with this question. It pushed my story ahead, bypassing the small talk and giving me the opportunity to express what concerned me most about my illness. It was what I'd been longing to answer, even though I hadn't even known what the question was.”

It’s ok to be scared, you don’t have to hide it.


Let them know they can be vulnerable around you. They don’t need to hide anything, and they can show their true emotions.

Nothing, just hug them and smile.


Sometimes the best things don’t need words.

You look much younger (as they get healthier).

(book 249)

They will appreciate hearing this. Knowing that progress is being made and can be physically seen will lift their spirits.

Follows patients lead in the conversation, allow repetition.


Let them do the talking. If they lead the conversation it will be easier to know what to say to them. If the patients becomes repetitive about their condition, let them.




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)