Cancer is a scary thing. Even with medical advances and longer life spans, we still fear the word cancer. And that’s not the only disease that frightens us. What do you say when a friend or loved one shares, “I’ve been diagnosed with cancer (or some other difficult illness)?”
Most likely, you’re caught by surprise. So you may respond honestly, “I’m shocked as you must be. I don’t know anything about this cancer (or other illness).” That leaves the door open for your friend or loved one to explain things. While they’re talking, you should have enough time to get your bearings. When there is a lull in the conversation, you might ask, “How are you doing with all of this?”
What doesn’t help? Crying or showing your distress. Your friend or loved one is dealing with their own emotions and fears; it’s not their job to comfort you. This is one of those times when you need to gather your strength and put on a strong front. Shed your tears in private and confide your fears to someone else.
When the news is shocking we must stand tall. And lend our strength to the loved ones that need it.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.