what-to-say-too-someone-with-cancer{or any terminal or difficult disease.}

I believe life goes on after this one–we are called “home.” But do I want to go “home” right now? No. Not unless it’s San Jose, Calif. Not ready to leave this life.

I believe there are non-traditional things we can do to support treatment, like affirmations and expressing our emotions about our disease. Some of these things are supported by true scientific research and if they might provide an edge, a benefit, I wouldn’t hesitate. But I wouldn’t force them on anyone. My belief may not be theirs.

Oh, for those who can appreciate it, I might point out some of the studies I’ve read, but only so that they can consider that information as they make their own decision. Their choice.

* Finding the words. Or no words. *

So what to say to someone battling a terminal or difficult disease?

Sometimes just “It sucks.” Because it does and also because you know they think it does. That acknowledgement may seem obvious but sometimes it’s just the support a friend needs. Simple as that.

Other times there’s no need to say anything. Just sit with them in the darkness. Sitting is powerful. Ask any Buddhist. Also ask any hospice nurse.

Or you can gently ask how they’re doing and be willing to hear the response without trying to make it right.

* Because we can’t fix it. *

All the platitudes, all the prayer emoticons, all the stuff we’re used to saying? I try to think twice before saying them. Unless I know for absolute sure they will be comforting. Unless the friend asks for them. Because sometimes they really aren’t helpful.

My wonderful friend read devotionals daily. We were close and talked about everything. Spirituality did come up. But it was her call if and when it did.

She could have a dark humor about it and so once in a while we’d have snarky “well, on the bright side….” conversations. Usually at cancer’s expense.  (I’ll bet some of you have had similarly snarky exchanges with someone you know well.)

I would not bring spiritual matters up with friends I didn’t know so well.  Or have those snarky exchanges.

“Just being honest…”

Honesty is not always necessary. Does that shock you? Many well-meaning people step all over it and then say, “well, I was just being honest…”

Sometimes it’s better to say nothing.

The bottom line for talking with those fighting life and death battles is this: Consider your audience and your relationship …and act accordingly.

Yeah, you’re going to step all over it once in a while. We all do. Forgive yourself. Remember that they’ve probably heard worse.

And by the way, you may or may not know that my friend and our discussions inspired this business.  If you want to know her story, it’s here.

Got some thoughts? I’d love to hear them. And don’t forget our Healing Toolkit and thoughtful, lovely gifts for those in the battle. Because sometimes, a pretty little gift can say it for you.


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