What To Say To A Breast Cancer Patient
(And What Not To)
If your loved one has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, sometimes saying the right thing can make all the difference. Furthermore, saying the wrong thing can make a difficult time much worse. It’s incredibly important that you choose your words with care; something that may seem harmless to you may actually make your loved one very sad. Here are a few tips to help you stay supportive during this difficult time.
Being Supportive: Saying the Right Things
Here are a few things you can say that your loved one will probably welcome.
“I Care About You and I’m Here for You”
Keep the conversation positive and uplifting. Sometimes, breast cancer patients prefer not to talk about their experiences at all, and that’s okay! Take your cues from your loved one. If they seem unopen to discussing their breast cancer treatment with you, find another way to be supportive.
“You are strong. You can do this.”
It takes a high level of perseverance and grace with oneself to emotionally get through cancer treatment. Choosing to fight cancer is a battle in and of itself, and many people struggle with whether or not to fight the disease. These words are uplifting and acknowledge the internal struggle a breast cancer warrior faces every day.
“I’m so sorry, that probably wasn’t helpful”
Perhaps the most important thing is to know how to respond when you accidentally say something wrong. Unfortunately, it’s probably going to happen at some point. When you notice your loved one reacts negatively to something you said, own up to it and apologize. By being open and honest with each other, you can both learn how to interact together.
Things NOT To Say
While you may mean well, there are a few tired sentiments that just feel hollow or ungenuine. Here's a few to avoid
“I get it.”
Unless you’ve had breast cancer, too, you really don’t get it. Avoid saying this phrase because it trivialises the other person’s struggle. The best thing you can do is acknowledge with them that what they’re going through is tough. They might need your help, so keep an ear out and an eye open for ways that you can help them through this time.
“Don’t worry, I’m sure it’ll be okay.”
First and foremost, you don’t know that everything will turn out fine. It’s okay to want to comfort your loved one, but be careful how you do it. A statement like this, again, trivialises their struggle and doesn’t do anything to make their situation better.
“How long did they give you?”
It goes without saying that a terminal breast cancer patient probably doesn’t want to be reminded about the time they have left. Furthermore, non-terminal patients are fighting as hard as they can, and they would much rather talk about how they are kicking cancer in the patootie. Instead, ask your loved one if there’s anything they’d like to get out of the house and do; are there people they want to visit?
The Value of Reaching Out
Cancer, of any kind, is a tough pill to swallow. Unfortunately, breast cancer treatment is also extremely difficult on the body and mind. While friends and family should be careful with their words around breast cancer patients, make sure you’re not also going out of your way to avoid interaction altogether一 it might be hard, but it’s worth the effort to help someone you love.