LiveLaughLearn – What To Say (To Someone With Cancer)

My name is Vanessa and I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 37. One of the most difficult aspects of my cancer experience was telling people about my diagnosis. I dreaded telling people because of the cringe-worthy reactions I would get. I heard everything–from being compared to someone’s cat and also being compared to (what seemed like) everyone’s grandmother. I feel like nobody really knew what to say to me.

In this LiveLaughLearn video my cousin, Alana, and I talk about what you should say to someone when they reveal their diagnosis to you and share their cancer experience.

Here are a few tips to help you out:

DON’T be overly positive. DO tell her it’s ok to feel sad or scared.

I found it frustrating when people wouldn’t let me express my true feelings and fears about my cancer. It was helpful to talk about my fears along with the gory details of treatment, because it helped me process what was happening. With my cousin, I was able to speak freely, with no filter, which often left us laughing hysterically about the absurdity of the situation.

DON’T simplify the experience. DO ask questions so you can learn the facts.

Like I said in the video, cancer is HUGE and affects every facet of a young person’s life. It’s important to ask questions and learn the facts to gain an understanding of this.

Definitely DON’T make comparisons! DO let her know she is not alone.

Even though it may seem like breast cancer is breast cancer, it’s not just one disease and everyone responds to treatments differently. The emotional and physical toll can vary drastically. Having cancer as a young person is very different than an older person. Please don’t compare!

DON’T be the fortune teller, or try and predict the future. DO tell her you’ll be there for her, whatever may come.

When talking to someone with cancer, it’s important to stay in the present moment and not jump ahead to the future. The future can feel very overwhelming and as much as we may try, we cannot predict it. Instead of saying, “I know you’ll be okay!” try saying, “I know this is hard, and I’m here for you.”

And as a final note, as my lovely cousin Alana explained, she found it difficult to know what to say to me. So instead she chose to listen. This is a great suggestion for anyone; just be there, show up, and listen.

You may also be interested in

#YWMBC: Nadine
The Realities of Being A Mom With Metastatic Breast Cancer
Cancer is Crap: Chemo Brain
50 Carroll Street Toronto, Ontario Canada M4M 3G3
Phone: 416 220 0700
Registered Charity #: 892176116RR0001

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