Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment

Disease, Medical, Hodgkin Lymphoma, Chemotherapy, Immunotherapy, Oncology

In this Guide:

Being diagnosed with cancer can be frightening, and it's only the beginning of a very long journey to understand one's diagnosis and decide upon the best course of treatment. It's important for patients to have the love and support of their friends and family during this time, but it isn't always easy to know what to do or what to say to somebody who has cancer. This guide will provide insight into what the patient might be thinking, and how you can help him/her through this difficult time. 

They Might Be Thinking:

  • Why me?
  • How did I get this?
  • I'm afraid to die. 
  • I'm tired of talking about cancer all of the time. 
  • People never know what to say and sometimes say things that make me feel worse. 
  • People were very kind when I first told them I had cancer, but now they have stopped reaching out to me. 
  • I'm so lonely during my cancer treatments. 
  • I hate spending all of my time going to doctors' offices and the hospital. 
  • All of this information is just overwhelming. I don't even understand half of what the doctors are telling me. 
  • It's hard to choose the best course of treatment. What should I do?
  • I don't want to lose my hair. 
  • I'm so upset that I can't work out/play tennis/run because I don't feel up to it. 
  • I'm bored and lonely.
  • It's so frustrating not being able to do everything I'm used to doing. 
  • How will I take care of my family while I'm receiving treatment?
  • I'm tired all of the time but I'm having trouble sleeping.
  • I'm having headaches and muscle pains.
  • I don't feel like eating/I'm always hungry.
  • I feel nauseous all of the time. 
  • I can't concentrate on anything and I don't have any energy.
  • Will I be able to have sex during treatment?
  • Will I be able to work while I'm receiving treatment? Will I be able to keep my job?
  • I'm worried about the financial impact this will have on our family. Are there any other resources to help deal with this?

Words That Might Be Encouraging:

  • I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care.
  • I'm sorry you have to go through this.
  • I'm here if you would like to talk about it. (Listen without always feeling that you have to respond. Don't feel like you need to fill empty space with conversation.) 
  • I know you have chemotherapy (other treatment) today and just wanted you to know I'm thinking of you. 
  • Can I come and be you during your treatment?
  • I am here to help you with whatever you need during your treatment.
  • I can prepare some meals ahead of time and will help with household chores during your treatments. Let's go ahead and put a schedule together. 
  • Many of us would like to help. Can I put together a meal calendar so your friends can coordinate when they can deliver meals to your home? And/or a chore calendar?
  • Do you need rides to and from treatment? Can I help put together a schedule so you don't have to worry about getting to them?
  • Why don't you let me put together a carpool schedule for your kids so you can rest?
  • I'd like to stay in touch while you are going through this. Can we set up a regular time each week for me to call you/come over?
  • Do you need any help figuring out the insurance for your treatment?
  • Is there anything I can do to make you feel more comfortable?
  • I'm just calling/e-mailing to fill you in on the latest here at the office. (If the patient is your co-worker, keep him/her up-to-date with what’s happening at work. However, always check before doing something for your co-worker with cancer, no matter how helpful you think you are being.) 
  • I have a friend who had this same type of cancer and she has been cancer-free for five years! (Always keep it positive.)

Words That Might Be Discouraging:

  • I know how you feel. 
  • Don't worry; everything will be ok.
  • Don't cry; it's not that bad. 
  • Cheer up!
  • You look so tired today.
  • Are you going to lose all of your hair?
  • You look like you are losing weight.
  • Look on the bright side; at least you are losing weight!
  • You seem kind of grumpy today; don't let the situation get you down.
  • You only have one life to live. You have to make the most of it.
  • Stop complaining! You are a lot better off than many other people.
  • Will you still be able to have sex?
  • I'm going to come over every single day to help you out. (Don't make unrealistic promises.)
  • This is just God's will; everything happens for a reason. 
  • Are you sure that's the best treatment option? I've heard it doesn't work. (Respect their decisions about how their cancer will be treated, even if you disagree.)
  • I didn't tell you about the meeting because I didn't want to bother you. (Don't exclude the person from work activities based on their illness. If you have concerns, ask them if they would like to be included.)
  • I know someone who had that kind of cancer but she died. 
  • I haven't come by or called because I didn't want to bother you. 
  • I know someone who had that surgery and developed a really bad infection. Are you sure it's safe?
  • Now that you are done with treatment, are you cured?
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