The American website Cancer.net has some very relevant advice for talking to someone with cancer, which include how to choose your words carefully and what words and questions can be used and ones which shouldn’t.
Unhelpful phrases you should avoid include when talking to someone with cancer
- I know how you feel (because you probably don’t)
- I know what you should do. (again, because you probably don’t, even if you think you do)
- You will be fine (they may not be and this belittles their worries)
- Don’t worry (its time to worry, don’t stop them worrying)
- How long do you have? (no comment!)
Phrases which show support when talking to someone with cancer
- I’m sorry you are going through this.
- If you feel like talking, I’m here to listen when it is a good time for you.
- What will you do, and how can I help?
- I care about you.