What are four things you should never say to a cancer patient? What things would you suggest?
I Had a Friend Who Died of Cancer
Many years ago my mother was battling cancer and had a friend tell her “I had a friend who died of cancer.” This might seem sympathetic, but it comes off sounding like this: “My friend died of cancer, so you probably will, too.” When they told my mother this, she was not giving up; she was still fighting the cancer. Even though she died of it later, she was still fighting it and didn’t want to hear any fatalistic stories about others who died of it. Maybe the person who has cancer won’t die. The death rate for cancer is falling, so why not just keep that to yourself because sharing such tragic accounts might make them think that you think they’re headed for the same fate, and that might not be the case at all.
I Know How You Feel
The only person who’s qualified to say “I know how you feel” is someone who’s battled cancer or someone who’s going through a battle with cancer right now. If not, then we can’t really say, in all reality, that we know how they feel. How do we know? They have thoughts running through their minds, and they are probably not what we think they are. Only a mother can tell another woman in labor that she knows how it feels. I can’t because I’m a man. I really have no clue. So imagine me telling my wife during her labor “I know how you feel.” Nope, that’s not good.
You’re Going to Beat This
If someone is fighting cancer and someone says “you’re going to beat this,” how are they supposed to react to that? How do they know? What if they’re wrong? It’s like trying to tell them “think positive, it’ll be all right.” Unless God has come down from heaven and told you in person that He’s going to heal them, it’s not wise to tell someone with cancer that everything’s going to be okay and that they’re going to beat this.
You Look Good
This might sound encouraging, but it really isn’t helping because the person with cancer is not concerned about how they look as much as if they’ll survive the cancer. What you are also communicating by saying “you look good” is that “you look good considering you have cancer.” I know this isn’t what you’ve said, but that’s maybe the way they heard it. Some even go so far as to say “you look better than the last time I saw you,” which tells them that you must have looked pretty bad the last time they saw you.
Some other things might be: “Are you going to lose your hair? Have you tried a natural diet? What will happen to your kids/spouse?” There are times when all you can do is sit with them in silence or say “I am so sorry this happened to you.” I have dealt with a few members of my family who died with cancer, and I know it’s hard to know what to say and what to not say. I pray this helps some.
May God richly bless you,
Pastor Jack Wellman[ssba]
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