Breast Cancer Awareness Month - Ways To Show Compassion

When Someone You Know Has Cancer

When Someone You Know Has Cancer

October is breast cancer awareness month. When someone you love gets cancer it’s a scary feeling for both of you. You want to give support, but when you’re dealing with your own emotions, you may not know what to do.

Before you visit the person with cancer, deal with your emotions privately. They need your support not be put in a position to take care of you. 

If you find yourself in the middle of a conversation with a friend who's going through cancer and you start getting emotional, say “I don’t mean to get upset/emotional. It hurts me to see you go through this.” Reign in your emotions. Excuse yourself to go to the restroom, get a drink of water or take a moment for yourself to get yourself in control. 

There are times that you may not know what to say to someone who has cancer. And that's ok. Be honest. You might want to say, “I’m at a loss right now. I’m not sure what to say.” Your friend will appreciate your honesty more than an ill-thought out statement. Sometimes there isn't anything to say; they just want you to listen. 

3 Things Not To Say To Someone With Cancer

Cancer is a frightening condition. And when you’re talking to someone who is battling cancer, you might be scared to say the wrong things. It’s uncomfortable situation for you and them.

Many times, you want to sound empathic and might say, “I know what you’re going through.” This is a big mistake because your statement isn't factual. No, you don’t know what they're going through. That statement is insensitive. It’s better to say, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I’m here to listen to whatever you want to share.”

Helping someone with cancer can relieve a lot of stress. There's a better thing to say besides, “Let me know how I can help.” Many people with cancer might deny your offer to help because they don't want to put you out. It also puts them in a position to have to come up with ways for you to help. It’s easier for you to think through how you can be of service. For example, “I’m making baked spaghetti tonight for dinner and I’m making enough for your family. What time should I drop it off?” Or, give them a call from the grocery store, “I’m at the store, what can I get you?”

When you want to encourage someone with cancer you might say, "You're so strong." This statement seems like a supportive statement. But you have to realize that not everyday is going to be a great day. The journey is a struggle with both good and bad moments. There might be days that they don't want to be strong; they just want to be. These statements puts pressure on them to be strong all the time, which isn't realistic. 

3 Ways To Help Someone With Cancer

When battling cancer, it can be a struggle. Chemotherapy, radiation and medications can wear anyone down. You might wonder how you can help a friend or loved one who's dealing with cancer. 

Here are three ideas.

1. You can keep them company. When there's a lull in the conversation or if they fall asleep, play music softly in the background. Bring a book or read on your phone or ipad. Sometimes it's your physical presence that can make the difference. 

2. Come over to help with a house project. Clean out the refrigerator. Wash laundry. Pool money for housecleaning with neighbors and friends. Or, just clean it yourself.

3. If they have kids then plan carpool, play dates, afterschool care - homework and snack. Or, shuttle their kids to their afterschool activities: sports, drama, art, dance, tutoring classes. 

3 Ways to Help The Caregiver Of Someone With Cancer

When someone gets cancer, it impacts the whole family. Family members, particularly the spouses, take on the responsibility for caring of their husband/wife who has cancer, the kids, house and continue to work. It can be quite a challenge to juggle it all.

One way you can help a family that’s stricken with cancer is by helping the caregiver, who’s usually the spouse.

1. Be their personal assistant. Run errands such as going to the post office, bank, grocery store, pharmacy and dry cleaners.

2. Give the caregiver a break. Go over to the house to take care of your friend with cancer. Play with the kids while you're there. 

3. Take your friend with cancer to their doctor's appointments or chemo treatments. Record conversations with permission so the caregiver or spouse gets all of the important information. 

Your time can help make the caregiver's life less stressful. And you'll be much appreciated.

Share your thoughts with me on Twitter at @blancacobb. Remember to use the hash tag #BlancaOn2. Or, you can find me on my facebook page.

Blanca Cobb is a WFMY News 2 Contributing Editor, body language expert and keynote speaker/trainer who covers nonverbal communication, psychology and behavior. Follow her @blancacobb. The opinions expressed in this article are exclusively hers.

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