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12 Things Never To Say To Someone Who Has Cancer

You mean well, but seriously, stop.

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1. "That's a good cancer to have."

There are no good cancers. There are definitely some which respond better to treatment than others, and I'm allowed to observe that as the patient, but you are not.

Please don't tell me how lucky I am. I may not be in the humour to hear that.


5. "We didn't think you'd be up for it."

Don't assume we're not able to do things just because we have cancer. Keep inviting us to stuff. Sometimes we won't be up to it, but sometimes we will, and we desperately need to leave the house.

7. "Have you tried...?"

Unless you have a piece of advice so stellar that you think we literally can't go on without it, please don't make suggestions about our treatment.

Yes, eating kiwis may be an effective way of combating constipation in your everyday life, but if the industrial-strength medical-grade laxatives an actual doctor has prescribed for me aren't working, then adding more fruit to my diet probably won't either.


12. "Congratulations! You're done!"

It's not necessarily over just because we've had our last scheduled bit of chemo or radiation.

Reaching the end of treatment can be a really scary time, so let me tell you when I'm ready to celebrate.

So what should you say?


"I don't really know what to say."

It's OK for you to be honest about how you're feeling. We don't expect you to be an expert in dealing with this really tough situation.

"I'm sorry you're going through this."

Sometimes a simple acknowledgement that things are a bit crap right now really helps.

"Do you need a lift home from chemo?"

Specific offers of help are much better than general "I'm here if you need me" type statements. We'll actually take you up on them, and they will genuinely make a difference.

"Have you seen...?"

Movie and telly recommendations are invaluable for days when we can't get off the couch and feel like we've exhausted Netflix.