When a friend receives the dreaded diagnosis that they have cancer, it can feel very daunting. Whenever someone has difficult news there can be times that we, as friends, are unsure how to talk to them about it. When someone you love has cancer there are no rules about what to say/not to say, and it can vary from person to person. However, here are some tips on how you can talk to someone who has cancer.
- This seems obvious however, you would be surprised by how many people find their own insecurities about saying the wrong thing. It can be so overwhelming that they end up avoiding the person. Not talking to the person at all is the worst thing you can do. When you are diagnosed with cancer it can be overwhelming and daunting. You can feel isolated and this is reinforced if those around you begin to avoid you. Keep talking to them.
- But what to talk about? Take their lead. People differ. Some people will want to talk about their feelings and fears, others will prefer to talk about anything but their diagnosis and, the majority of people, will fluctuate between the two. Take their lead by looking for cues, they openly talk about. What they are afraid of? Then ask them about it, comfort them. If they are being careful to avoid the subject, then don’t force it on them, talking about other topics is perfectly normal.
- They’re still them. Even though this huge diagnosis has descended upon them, the patient is still the friend they were before. It’s important to bring up conversations about the interests that they had at one point. What television programmes they watched? And remember, they still want to know about you too.
- Share your news. Moan about your husband, complain about the workload you have, rant about the parking situation at the supermarket. Your own annoyances are still important and your friend will want to hear them. It is refreshing and grounding for a cancer patient to still hear every day complaints from friends. They are normal people, who can still be spoken to in the same manner.
- Hold back the advice. A lot of the time when people open up about their fears, they want to do just that–– open up. They are not often asking for advice, just for someone to listen. Be careful that you don’t try to have a ready answer for everything that they say. Be even more careful not to compare your friend to someone else you knew who had cancer. “My friend had that chemotherapy and found it was awful.”
- Be there. Sometimes your loved one may not want to talk at all, but will still want your company. Just being there, sending a daily message to let them know you’re thinking of them, sitting watching the television together or having a walk in the park is perfect. You don’t need to force conversation. Letting your friend know you’re there for them and keeping the communication lines open is the most important thing you can do.
When someone you love has cancer, they need you in their lives still. You may find it difficult to know what to talk about, they may feel anxious about upsetting you. Be there for them, take their lead, remember that they are still who they always have been, talk to them about your own life and listen.