- How do you talk to someone who has cancer?
- About cancer
- Hearing the news
- Ways of coping
- Living with cancer
- Sources of support
- Concern for the family and caregivers
- Help and information
- If your loved one decides to stop getting treatment
- If your loved one refuses cancer treatment
- Facing the final stage of life
- Summing up: Talking to the person with cancer
- To learn more
Sources of support
There are many sources of support for people facing cancer. These include visitation programs like the American Cancer Society Reach To Recovery® program (for women with breast cancer), ostomy rehabilitation (for patients with stomas on the belly), and laryngectomy clubs (for those who have lost their natural voice because of cancer surgery).
The American Cancer Society I Can Cope® program is another good source of information. It can help you learn more about cancer diagnosis, treatment, side effects, nutrition, and other topics of interest to people with cancer and those close to them.
Some of our local offices may be able to assist with transportation and can put you in touch with other sources of support. To find out about services where you live, contact your American Cancer Society.
Everyone, no matter how emotionally strong they are, can be helped by support. Try to understand what the person is going through—by listening, offering a hand, and giving encouragement along the way. Encouraging someone does not mean you act like a cheerleader, or that you try to make them feel good when they are feeling bad. It’s important to allow the person with cancer to express anger, frustration, and sad feelings. After the person has vented negative feelings, you can encourage them by saying things like, “I’m sorry you are feeling so bad. I can’t imagine how you feel, but I am here to listen anytime you need to talk. You have one more round of chemo. Maybe when that is over, you will start feeling a little better.”
Everyone, no matter how emotionally strong they are, can be helped by support.
In fact, just listening and not talking is probably more helpful than saying the wrong thing. Some of the wrong things to say are “I know how you feel,” when you clearly don’t; or “It will be better tomorrow,” when you can’t be sure of that either. Even though you may say these things with the best of intentions, the person may feel that you really don’t understand and decide that it doesn’t help to talk to you. You must listen with your ears and your heart. As one person with cancer put it, “A long illness is so discouraging. You need people to get you through it.” Having a good support system means the person does not have to face cancer alone.
Last Medical Review: 01/10/2013
Last Revised: 02/20/2014