This isn’t a fun topic, but it is one that unfortunately probably affects a lot of people….
Can we have a conversation about how to practically help a friend with a diagnosis of cancer (or other serious disease)? Just this week a very close old friend of mine (with 2 little kids) found out she has ovarian cancer, and it is spreading already. This is scary, scary stuff. Not much else is known right now. But I can’t be the only person with a friend facing this.
Reading online it seems the best thing you can do is to help them *practically* and make concrete plans, not say “let me know if I can do anything” (no matter how sincerely you mean that.) Offbeat Homies always have great ideas, so I thought we could open it up.
In my personal case, the friend lives a couple hours away, but we could discuss ideas for friends near and far. I have already sent a GC for a restaurant that delivers in their town that will more than cover dinner for one night when they can’t face cooking. Our larger group of friends is collecting donations to pay for once a week house cleaning for a month.
What else can I/we do to help our friends facing The Big (fucking) C?
How can I help my friend who’s been diagnosed with cancer?
Posted byOffbeat Editors
Comments on How can I help my friend who’s been diagnosed with cancer?
I had a traumatic accident 8 years ago (t-boned by a dump truck and even that couldn’t take me out!). I spent a few months in hospital doing rehab for a traumatic brain injury and a lot of physical trauma.
My parents, to this day, still talk about the friends and neighbours that came forward to help. Prepared meals is a big one. Something like lasagna or other casseroles that can go in the freezer is a great help. In my case, my family was traveling back and forth to the hospital constantly, so having a healthy homemade meal available was a true blessing for them.
Gift cards for places where they can grab lunch or coffee is a really good idea. If they wind up spending a lot if time traveling back and forth to the hospital, and in the hospital, the coffee helps! 😉
Finally, something that I find a real gift is pet care. If they are going to be away from home a lot, it’s stressful for pets. Even at home, life will become very different. Pets fall low on the priority list in tough times like this, sadly. When I was in the hospital, I know my brother’s girlfriend (now wife) took my beloved dog for walks, and I will be forever grateful to her for that! My pets played an integral role in my rehab, but I still couldn’t offer them all that they needed all the time. Offering your friend help with walks, play time, or even cuddles with pets is much needed and a huge relief for the pets and their people!
All my best to your friend!
It sounds like you are surrounded by a lot of great people! I think you may have suggested the perfect role (pet caretaker) for me, so thank you!
Give your friend the book The Cure For All Cancers by Hulda Clark. I just followed it exactly and am making progress every minute.
Cancer is so terrible and overwhelming but it is also something that causes the people around fighter to get used to happening fairly quickly. At first, offer to help out but she may be trying to maintain a sense of normalcy and decline your initial offer. You can still help out by doing spontaneous things for her that you know she needs but isn’t asking for. Offering to take the kids to a museum on a morning after she has a chemo/radiation dose so she can sleep in or maybe if she is a constant puker like my mom was, taking the kids overnight on those days. Dropping off a frozen dinner to keep for a night that she needs it is always helpful. Keeping her in good spirits by treating her like the friend that you love and not the sick person is needed for that person to keep their head on straight.
As a caring, close friend you will be most needed a few months down the road when all the offers wear off and she really needs it. With cancer, the fighters usually start off strong and positive giving off the air that they are doing this and will beat it. But all fighters have that day, week or month later on where they are losing hope, just got the news that it’s spreading or even that it is still the same. Those moments, are when you friend will need you most.
How about a friend who likes kids and is good with them take their kids one or two nights a month? That way your friend and her spouse can have a night to themselves. They can do a date night or just have some time together to unwind.
this! offering childcare & taking the kids out of the home is so great. the parents can have time together, either away or stay in… or if your friend isn’t up to it, this is time when she doesn’t have to put on a brave face in her home, which can become just as exhausting as cancer can be. Being able to let go and cry and not worry that a child will walk in and get scared can be such a relief, as strange as it sounds. Plus, you’re giving the kids an escape and taking their minds off of the thing that’s eating up their parent’s time, so double bonus.
This is a difficult time, for everyone, but obviously especially for the family. The costs can be devastating, even with insurance. My friend is currently going thru Chemo and she has decided that she chose when to lose her hair, so she now sports a purple mohawk and also has a vast array of wigs for office attire and katy perry nights. She also has a buttload of friends pulling for her that are using http://www.friendsbeatingcancer.org to set up fund raising events, friends selling the pins of the lapel type in the ribbon color for the specific type of cancer. Again, this woman has insurance but co-pays and incidentals are also killer. Be strong and encourage her entire support network to do small things all over. Good luck to your friend and you.
I always forget about the cost factor. Thankfully, we live in Canada so that is not a concern for us, it is all taken care of, but yes, for people reading in places without that sort of health care, money would be a huge factor.
And even in Canada, the cost of travel, time off work, extra meds (prescription/vitamins), clothes/wigs/etc that fit, kids in childcare, all of those things, can add up. If the family has to travel for treatment, and stay somewhere besides homes, that can be a huge cost.
I live in Canada too, and work in the cancer field. Some patients actually say it’s harder here, because everyone assumes healthcare covers your costs. Friends don’t always step forward with financial/in-kind help because it’s assumed medicare pays. In fact, the following aren’t covered in Canada, and this is especially true if you don’t have private insurance:
– Out-of-hospital cancer and supportive drugs (like anti-nausea meds). The average cost of a course of cancer drugs in Canada is $65,000, and if your private insurance won’t pay, you must pay out-of-pocket. There are also insurance caps, co-pays and deductibles that can be very high.
– travel to medical appointments
– parking ($15-ish a day)
– overnight stays
– accessories like wigs and prosthetics
In Canada, the Canadian Cancer Society (cancer.ca) runs a helpline (1-888-939-3333) that will answer *any* questions. You could always point your friend in its direction. They’ll do medical questions, talk about treatment options, wigs, your sex life during cancer, financial difficulties, palliative care, the works. Our patients often find it a useful one-stop shop when they need more expert help than friends can give.
Finally, the cancer journey can be long. It doesn’t stop when chemo stops. I’d urge you to keep up the support as your friend transitions to survivorship.
this is great, thank you.
On the topic of costs, it may be helpful to someone if you can do any research about what they *are* entitled to. (Time-consuming research can suck if you’re ill.)
So, taking the list above as an example – in the UK, many of these are things that you can receive for free (extra medication, hospital stays, parking at hospital, wigs) or claim back money for (travel to the hospital, childcare). But not everyone realises, resulting in unnecessary expense. So, while most hospitals offer free (or very reduced) parking for cancer patients, up to two-thirds of cancer patients still pay full-price for their parking.
If you can do a bit of research about stuff that is applicable in your area, that could help your friend a lot.
Doesn’t this depend on (and vary widely based on) the province you live in? I’ve lived in BC for a few years, and I thought I saw an article not so long ago about the differences of cancer patient care from province to province. (Or maybe I dreamed it. I’ve been reading a lot of books lately in which cancer plays a big role.)
Definitely true that this can vary by province. I know in Saskatchewan that if drugs are not covered by your health plan and/or by the provincial drug plan, you can apply for “exceptional drug status.” My dad did this for his cancer drugs.
I second being there in the future when the offers have died down but become needed because its hard to stay strong. And that remaining a friend rather than becoming a carer is such a help. It encourages a sense of normal especially since it the big C can become your whole life and having something else is a great help, even conversation about the latest development at work. Also lots of little things, being there a little a lot is better than being there a lot a little.
When I was diagnosed it was a friend who was in your situation (lived several hours away) that helped me through the months of treatment. She simply paid attention to my facebook status and acted on rectifying any negative ones in any way she could. So a facebook status commenting on how Im finding day-time TV sucks by day 4 resulted in a phonecall to just catch up. Talking about the antics of her kid and what gossiping about life was a relief to being stuck in the house recovering from surgery. When my facebook status was about how I had run out of lavander oil she sent me a gift basket of lavander bath and aromatherapy stuff. If she had asked me if I needed anything, even directly if I wanted to be sent lavander stuff I would have said no to not be a burden (hating being a burden was one of my main feelings), having it sent as a gift was so heartwarming at such a depressing time. Saying ‘just be there’ sounds so tripe but when heartfelt and done right it is the best thing to do.
My cousin found out she had cancer a few years ago (in remission now, yay!) She lives across the country from me, but we kept in touch online. And as a person who watched from afar, I have 2 suggestions of ways to help:
First, celebrate the little things. Anything that’s good to celebrate is a reason to celebrate. I would occasionally send flowers when good things would happen during the particularly bad times.
Second, I would give a gift certificate for a housekeeper. While I personally didn’t do this, my cousin ended up hiring a maid during her illness, and that was a huge help to her – so much so that she continues to get maid service twice a month.
Like the question-asker mentioned – help with the practical things is really worthwhile.
Cancer is one of those things that affects everybody a bit differently. It doesn’t hurt to ask directly what your friend needs help with the most. Truthfully, the answer might be ‘paying for these medical bills’ and I know most of us aren’t in a great position to help with that, but maybe there are other things you can do to help support the family financially a bit, like grocery store giftcards or offering to cover their water bill for a few months…
I will say, specific things that you can do to help might be offering to watch her kids for her now and again, especially if she’s having a difficult time with her treatment. Offering to take them out to a park to play might be a huge relief. Cooking meals for the family, especially the sort that can be frozen and heated up when needed, offering to come clean up now and again. Things that cost very little from you but time can wind up saving the family a lot of money.
There’s also just emotional support. Calling to check in on your friends now and again without always being that “Are you okay?” person. Even simple things like laughing about something you saw on television the other day or sharing a funny story can help remind your friend that there is a life outside of cancer, and that even though it’s a huge thing in their life right now, it’s not the ONLY thing. And when your friend DOES want to talk about it, be a sympathetic listener.
After a family tragedy, the single most helpful thing a friend of mine did was to make himself the coordinator for Project Help Jess Get Through. Not only did it take a huge load off my shoulders, it made everyone else’s efforts way more effective too.
Here are some of the things he did:
– Maintained a list of everyone who offered to help.
– Rotated people who were on “front-line” duty every two weeks, so no one got burned out, and I got sustained care for as long as I needed it.
– Got to know my day-to-day needs and helped me figure out what I needed help with and what I could handle myself.
– Served as a point person when someone said, “Let me know how I can help.” I could just have them call him and he would translate their good intentions into action.
– Kept people who would need ME to comfort THEM in roles where they weren’t interacting with me face-to-face.
Needs assessment is probably best done locally, but everything else could be handled online or by phone.
Doing this work doesn’t look as overtly helpful as, say, cooking a meal or caring for the kids – but god, I can’t tell you what a difference it made to me.
This deserves a post on its own. What an awesome friend! What a GREAT idea! My mom is 1 of 5 siblings, so they do this on a much smaller scale when things get tough.
That is awesome!
As someone who’s been through some sucky stuff this last year, I very much appreciated three things.
1. The friends who stayed current enough that I could just fill them in on whatever had developed since my last doctor conversation. It was so hard when people who’d been out of touch needed to be filled in from the beginning. But when I could say ‘oh, we confirmed that speculation from last week, but that other test didn’t give answers’ and they knew which things I meant, it was restful to talk about it.
2. People who didn’t wish me a cheery ending (“You’ll beat this thing!). I might not have a good resolution to this stuff (in my case, not fatal or anything). We don’t know. I appreciated people who simply acknowledged that it was really bad. We’ll know in a few years whether we get an OK ending.
3. People who didn’t make me handle their emotional reactions. Other people’s emotional reactions were exhausting and I was already exhausted from my own. I did like empathy. Their crying would often set off my own, which in sometimes helped and sometimes was just more crying.
I guess I’m describing someone who could share the intellectual part, the musing over diagnoses and daily observations about being very sick. Maybe that’s not for everyone; maybe most people want the emotional support. But it was something I was very grateful for when I got it.
I am relieved to hear someone else mention the point in #3… I am recovering from major surgery as cancer treatment and this has been the single hardest part… People have the very best intentions, but they don’t realize how hard it is to feel like you have to cheer them up about the situation… visits are wonderful, but people forget you need your rest, and not constant visitors that want to hear the same story over and over…
When people I know are going through an ongoing tough time, I like to mail them notes. Letters are fairly unobtrusive, don’t take up lots of space (like flowers or gifts), and can do a lot to brighten someone’s day. Who doesn’t like a surprise card in the mail?
If you’re too far away to give food or pop over to help with kids or pets, you can still send letters. I usually do it once a month, maybe a little more often, and I never make it a “let’s catch up” letter because I don’t want to make the recipient feel obligated to write back. I just write a few sentences encouraging them to stay strong and focus on the good stuff. If you know when their therapy is scheduled to be over, you can remind them that they’re getting closer to beating this thing. Maybe include an quote you think would boost their spirits.
I couldn’t agree more with this – when my mom was going through chemo and radiation, mail lifted her spirits so much. She ended up putting all the cards on the mantle so she could see them every day, even the ones when she was too weak to get out of bed. At the time, I was living in Asia (my parents are in the US) so I got to send her lots of little notes. Don’t worry about sending big letters – just a silly card with a ‘Thinking of you!’ can make a long day better. Mail for her kids and/or spouse might be nice too. To anyone that knows someone fighting an illness and isn’t sure whether to send a card: just do it. Even my brother’s ex sent my mom a card and every single one made her smile.
The other thing I would add is any kind of landscape/snow/etc. services that your friend’s family may use. When my mom was sick my dad had to shovel the snow every day and he said it was horrible, being outside in the cold and knowing his wife was inside because she couldn’t handle the weather and physical activity.
When I first developed fibromyalgia… I dropped off the face of the earth. What meant the most to me were the few friends that would check on me and not let me disappear. It isn’t the same as Cancer, but I still dealt with pain/fatigue/general sense of feeling crappy. I’m not the kind of person to broadcast my woes to the world, if I’m having an icky day, I won’t let the whole world know, but if you ask, I’ll let you know. Just be there for them, and ask them how they are doing.
When my mama’s very best and oldest friend was diagnosed with bowel cancer she just happened to be here in oz visiting home – her kids and husband were still living in africa. The difficult task of re-situating the family then began. Something that made a big difference was making sure everyone in their lives was informed, for example: a roster was designed for who was picking the kids up from school, when the school was given a copy of this and contact details of everyone involved so mum never had to be bothered if there was a mix up and never had to wonder if the kids were being taken care of. This ended one of her major stressors.
I wasnt able to be one of the “useful” friends so much so i just tried to make her life a little more special. When you are so sensitive and feeling horrible I think the little luxuries make life bearable. Treatment can make skin very sensitive so lovely bedding, super soft blankets and towels, fluffy bedsocks can be a great relief. Some people develop chemical sensitivity so fragrance free bath and body products can really help.
That “mums guilt” about spending money on things like that doesnt go away, from my experience, so they arent often likely to buy these comforts for themselves but it does make such a difference.
Pay attention to what their personal issues are and try to meet those with your gifts – while a casserole may be a lovely thought on your part, if the kids are picky and the recipient is having trouble keeping food down then it may just be an added stress finding something to do with it.
My final generalised statement: dont walk on eggshells, try and treat your friend the same because noone wants to be reminded that they are sick, they want to get as much life as they can. They want to be themselves as much as possible, not just “the one with cancer”!!!
In addition to emotional support and food, if you can try to find out what other little things this diagnosis may be doing to impact their life and things that are important to them.
“I was looking forward to planting my vegetable garden, but now I don’t have the energy.” Can you or some friends help get the garden started and tend it for a while so that when they’re feeling up to it they can tend it themselves later in the season?
“It’s the beginning of summer and I was looking forward to spending more time outdoors, but now I’m too tired to leave the house.” Can you plan picnics or outings or drives-with-the-windows-down-through-beautiful-areas to help them get some sunshine and fresh air? Or maybe contribute a deck lounge chair so they can easily spend more time outside at home?
(In the case of my friend’s wife:) “I have to take several months off work for treatment, and I’m going to be so bored stuck at home with nothing to do!” Can you find books, DVDs, craft projects, etc that this person may be interested in to keep them entertained and give them an escape from their illness?
When some friends was going through major medical craziness in recent months, I made freezer Crockpot meals and casseroles for them to take out and use as needed. They could just put the meal into the crockpot (or oven), go to their appointments all day and dinner would be ready when they got home! If you are looking for freezer meal ideas, just look on Pinterest; there are TONS on there!
I also made some healthy muffins (peanut butter banana flaxseed), wrapped them individually and froze them. It made for a quick, easy breakfast or snack that gave energy.
Other than that, I listened; I made myself available to watch their little kid or run to the pharmacy to pick up meds.
A very close friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 28. We live on opposite sides of the continent, so I couldn’t really do anything to physically help her.
What I COULD do was forward her pictures of adorable animals to make her smile, so that’s what I did.
I also tried to send her bagels from the famously-awesome bagel place on my side of the country, but that did not go so well unfortunately.
I highly suggest reading this article: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/07/opinion/la-oe-0407-silk-ring-theory-20130407
A great reminder for everyone in your circle. This was a huge issue for my cousin when she was in the hospital–she felt exhausted by family/friend visits because she was constantly forced to “cheer up” her visitors.
Sending good thoughts to your & your loved one.
Yes, this is good. We actually drove out to see her this weekend and went out for lunch. She clearly just wanted a ‘normal’ day, so that’s what we did. We let her talk (it is all really new) then just hung out. We had lunch. We ordered fun cocktails. We bought new sunhats and went shopping. She said she needed that day quite badly because everyone keeps calling/dropping by and just crying.
Prepared meals and raise money. As a friend I recently lost to cancer said, “Turns out cancer is expensive.” Be open to understanding what they really need, not what you necessarily want to give. Don’t send a bunch of junk that you think would be nice for them to have, they might not have the time and energy to deal with it. See if they have enough comfy PJ’s. Don’t be waiting around for thank-you’s from someone who might be too sick to speak, be there to talk when they need it but don’t push for the previous reason.
There are so many great ideas here! My mom had breast cancer on and off for 12 years before she passed away last month. Through the years of her treatments and then when she was in the hospital, it helped her and my family when others were around us to help out. Having tons of yummy and nutritious food on hand constantly was really helpful, but make sure that they don’t already have a ton of food, because a lot of it will end up going to waste. Also, being there (whether physically or over the phone/Internet) to talk about just the mundane bits of life help so much in redeveloping a sense of normalcy. Sending fun reminders of your friendship (my best friend who lives two hours away just sent me a whole bunch of books that she knew I would enjoy) help a lot, too. Think of the little things that you do everyday that your friend might need help with, and then offer, especially with the kids. My mom worked pretty much full time until two weeks before she went into the hospital, because she *hated* being at home and sitting around. Help your friend recreate that normalcy as much as possible, without completely wiping her out.
My condolences on the loss of your mother.
Been through this a few times with friends & family, and yes, it’s definitely a crappy time. Sounds like other posters here have made excellent ‘being there’ suggestions, so I’m just going to talk practicalities. Gift cards for meals or groceries are great, but don’t forget about gas cards. Whether it’s for the person to get to treatments, or for family members travelling a lot to be with them, these are very handy, and make for less out-of-pocket expense. If the centre or hospital they are going to for treatment has any sort of parking pass set-up, a pass or set of tickets/tokens for same, this stuff comes in handy. And yes, even though many things are covered here in Canada, there are incidentals (like parking!) that are not….if your friend needs meal replacements (ie Boost) to help gain/maintain weight, then either a case of this, or a drug store gift card, are good ideas. And sometimes, depending on the situation, it can be awhile between when a person may stop working and any benefits (insurance, disability, unemployment, etc) can kick in. If you have the means to just pay (or pay for part of), your friend’s water, electric, heating bill, just do it. People sometimes get offended to be offered financial help, but if they see their electric bill is $40 less than usual, they tend to shrug & think, well, maybe we used less power this month. Frankly, you can go into (or call) any utility company to make a payment on any acct if you have the address, & they don’t care – they ‘will’ take your money, LOL! But if you’re really close to someone & know they’ll be OK with it, give them an envelope of cash & just tell them it’s for any out of pocket costs they may have right now. And I mean ‘cash’ – don’t e-transfer funds to bank accts or send a cheque, because some wage replacement programs, esp. of the social service variety, frown on unknown deposits & will deduct them back off of the recipient’s next cheque from them – so then, not helpful. Just some ideas!
Gas cards are a *great* idea. Having seen it with my father, there is a LOT of travel for immediate family. And i love the idea of just paying their bills. Nice.
Oh yes. Gas cards. There will be a lot of running back and forth to treatment places. Also cleaning services, landscape services, childcare if they’re a parent, — any service you can help pay or provide is awesome.
Watch the lasagnas. My grandpa died and grandma ended up trying to cram 7 frozen lasagnas in her freezer. While thoughtful, it was a tad much.
That being said, I’ve heard of the Meal Train signup where people can pick days of the week to provide meals and it can rotate so people don’t get burned out. But I say, if you’re going to sign up for a meal, know what your family likes. While it’s nice that someone brought frozen soup (easy) after my son was born…I never used it because I didn’t actually like soup. A quick stop at the Thai truck down the street on the way home would have been just as cheap and easier and more appreciated (aka eaten). Maybe not everyone’s as picky as me, but if you have cancer I doubt you’ll want to eat stuff that you don’t like just to ‘be nice.’
I also want to echo the childcare and pet care advice from posters above.
My husband is going through his second round of chemo treatment for now recurrent rectal cancer, and I have two young kids, so I’ve kind of been there.
Email. Doesn’t have to be anything big, just an “I’m thinking of you!” My grandmother always adds “Don’t feel like you have to write back!” which is so helpful, because I do like to write back, but sometimes I just don’t have the energy. But those little check in emails go a lonnnng way.
Also, I wouldn’t ask anything about prognosis unless she volunteers the information. I also wouldn’t assume that everything’s going to be fine. The best that I could do, the best that I can do now, is just take it day by day. Reminders otherwise are a little overwhelming.
We had people make us meals, but I would have loved grocery store gift cards or gas cards. Our insurance covered all of treatment, and disability insurance covered some of the lost income, but we were broke broke broke. The meals were nice, but the reason I liked them was because of how much they saved me on groceries.
Finally, I don’t know if you are friendly with her spouse, but don’t forget that their life is going to change dramatically too. The whole family needs support, not just the person with cancer.
A good friend of mine in Maine (I’m in CT) was diagnosed with severe lymphoma and a slew of complications. I’ve been scrambling for ideas and ways to support him and his wife and kids. I absolutely love the idea of sending letters/packages, and will definitely try it!
My best friend was diagnosed with leukaemia at the start of the summer before I left for University (thankfully, she’s fine now — she was my maid of honour last summer!).
Some things that I or others did that helped:
-Parking passes for the hospital. There was actually an organization that gave them out to families of kids with cancer, and they really helped keep the costs down for all of us who were visiting her a lot.
-Food, especially stuff that could be reheated in the microwave at the hospital while she was an in-patient.
-Random little things like high SPF sunscreen when chemo made her über sun-sensitive, nice hand sanitizer when she had practically no immune system, and even tape / sticky-tack for putting up cards & pictures on the walls of her hospital room
-Crazy wigs, funky hats, and awesome scarves when she lost her hair
-Pictures / cards to make the hospital room less hospital-y
-Supporting not just the patient, but the whole family/other supporters — I remember one time when my friend’s dad just needed a hug and a shoulder to cry on, out of sight of my friend. People can get really drained by always supporting, and then they need to be offered support, as well.
-Doing normal-ish things. Making friendship bracelets together, discussing thoroughly confused feelings about guys, reminiscing about crazy things we’d done together… Talking about not-cancer is sometimes really good.
The Ring Theory is always good to remember when someone is undergoing a traumatic time (whether it’s cancer, divorce, what have you.) In a nutshell, draw a series of circles-within-circles. The person undergoing the trauma goes in the middle, the people closest to him/her in the next ring out, etc. The rule is simple: you can complain/talk about how unfair it is/moan/be angry to anyone in a circle larger than yours. The person in the center? Can kvetch to anyone. But they don’t need to hear YOU kvetching… they need you to be supportive and understanding. Save your complaining for people further away from from the center of the trauma.
You can read the full article here: http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-75241622/
That is really interesting! It prevents the person undergoing the trauma from having to comfort others. It also provides a nice visual for how a trauma resonates through a community but doesn’t affect everyone to the same extent. Thank you for sharing this!
I love this idea of complaining outwards. When my mother was terminally ill we ended up having to ask one of her long time friends to stop coming because every time she came she would sit with my mother and sob about how heartbroken she was that mum was dying. It was so emotionally exhausting for mum that it just had to stop! I understood how she was feeling, I was devastated too and had my own breakdowns, but once my mother got really sick she just needed peace and love.
There’s a whole bunch of good advice above; and I want to add another bit.
When you’re talking to her, if she does open up emotionally, DON’T say “I know how you feel”. Chances are, you really, really don’t, unless you’ve had cancer yourself.
Maybe this is a personal bugbear of mine, but it’s something I try really hard not to do, and it’s been commented on appreciatively in the past..
Ugh, I agree. That phrase never seems to work, not with illness, not with grief, not with anything.
Better thing to say (which still aren’t perfect):
“I’m sorry you are going through this really difficult time.”
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