Over the years, I’ve encountered many stories of people living with cancer. From personal accounts in books, to stories written here on this site, to my own personal experiences with family and friends, I have learned the importance of helping others through their cancer journey.
How can you care for a person with cancer? There are as many ways as there are people fighting cancer! Below are five of my favorite stories of wisdom from people who have lived with cancer. They share words we can say or things we can do to give people encouragement and hope.
Know that some questions are better than others. Asking certain types of questions shows someone that what they are going through is important to you. Although it’s always nice to ask, “How are you, today?” cancer survivor Brian Mansfield found that the question, “What’s going to be the hard part for you?” was even more helpful. Listen to a 2-minute podcast that explains why asking about the “hard part” is so helpful.
Take the initiative to visit. Tell them you’re coming over . . . then do it! Be creative with special treats and conversations that will brighten their days. Even if they say they don’t need anything, that’s when they will most appreciate that you are there. Listen here for more about what you can do.
Think before you speak. Talk with your friend using a compassionate heart. Do not say things like “You don’t look sick,” “Cancer is a gift,” or, “God has his purposes for giving you cancer.” Instead, you might say, “I can’t even begin to imagine what it is like for you” or “I know that you are hurting, and I really care about that. If you want to talk about it, I’ll listen.” This 2-minute podcast has more on the topic of phrases to avoid saying to a person with cancer.
Be there for your friend! Don’t avoid your friend because they have a serious illness. Go visit them in person and stay awhile. While you’re there, be in the moment with them. Listen to a podcast here for more details.
Pay attention to those who are alone. People with cancer may not want to tell you how alone they feel. Say, “May I go with you?” for their appointments. Put aside your own schedule for the day. You will be doing the most important thing–the thing that Jesus would do–caring for someone who is alone and struggling. Listen to a 2-minute podcast here for Grace’s story of feeling alone.
This post originally published on June 16, 2014. It was modified slightly on August 28, 2017.