Don’ts - CANCER

Don’ts

Approaching and communicating with a friend who has cancer is special. Especially if the person has been living with cancer for a long time. Some of us, cancer patients, are sad, some heroic, some pretending the bravery. I was asked many times to write a “manual” to help with the communication and to avoid offending the patient. I have decided to start with a list of don’ts.

Here is my list of don’ts when communicating with someone with cancer:

  • Do not start with telling a story about someone else you know has cancer
  • Do not make any jokes involving cancer unless you are cancer patient yourself
  • Do not ask if you can help unless you don’t mean it
  • Do not ask about all aspects and details of the illness just to satisfy your own curiosity
  • Do not patronize
  • Avoid comments about appearance, such as “you look good considering what you are going through”

Avoid comments such as:

  • Cancer is not necessarily a terminal disease nowadays…
  • At least you do not have children to take care off…
  • You must be bored to death now when you are not working…
  • After 6 years with cancer you are certainly used to the idea that you are dying…
  • It looks like you are not in pain…
  • I know, or can imagine, how you feel…
  • I understand that you are not as confident as before…
  • I understand that you are over-sensitive…

Would you like to add your don’ts to the list? Here is a link to the forum discussion on this topic.

You can also join discussion on a topic about the impact of cancer on relationships with friends and family called Who stayed.