What to Say When Someone You Know Has Cancer

Ellen Stovall, who leads the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship says “too often, well-meaning friends and neighbors issue orders, telling people with cancer to take this herb or see that doctor.

"If you say, 'Everything is going to be OK,' that's trivializing it," says psychiatrist Jimmie Holland, author of The Human Side of Cancer. "But it's also not good to say, 'Oh, my mother had that and she died in three weeks.' "

Stovall says people can still share their experiences if they tread lightly. "You can say, 'I'm sure a lot of people are offering what was helpful to them,' " Stovall says. " 'Do you even want to hear about any of those things?' "

Instead of advice, one of the best things to offer is just to listen, Stovall says. "I can remember somebody saying: 'I'm a really good listener. I offer that because it's something I can do,' " Stovall says. "Even though I may never avail myself of their offer, it can be nice to know that someone cared enough to offer."

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