Monday, 24 February 2014

What to say with someone with cancer

I was told today that one of my old friends hasn't been in touch with me since October 2012 (when I was first diagnosed) as he didn't know what to say to me. 

This has made me think, I kind of understand, I guess, I know I've been in situations where I'm not sure what to say or I've said the wrong thing.

A few weeks ago I was working behind the stall, and a couple walked up, and the lady was a dwarf.  At the back of my head, a voice said "Don't say anything about her size", they both purchased, I made polite conversation, they both walked away and I suddenly notice that I said the words  "small", "short", and "tiny' all in one unintentional sentence.

I'm trying to see it from others' point of view, how would I feel if I had to meet someone in my situation? I must admit, I'm not sure. But, I can see it may be awkward.

But it did get me thinking, and that's why I've come up with this list.

What to say and what not to say to someone with cancer:

Not sure what to say to those affected by cancer? One solution is, simply avoid them.  But stop! Before you decide on avoidance remember this - cancer patients don't attack and bite into the ankle*, they haven't got the energy! So don't be scared, please use the advice below on how to handle a conversation with someone with cancer.

Do Say:

"Hello, how are you?"

People with cancer still have good days and bad, to say "Hello how are you is fine" (unless it's a bad day, and the response may be, "How the hell do you think I am?!")

Don't say:

"First Hayley Cropper, and now you! Why why why?!"

Do say:

"So, what have you been up to?"

Living with cancer doesn't stop you from living, unless they're not living, and if that's the case, by asking "What have you been up to?", won't cause much offence anyway.

Don't say

"WOW, you look really shit!"

Cancer can slightly affect your esteem so tread carefully when talking about looks.

Do say:

"So, any news?"

People with cancer sometimes want to talk about cancer, but then sometimes they don't. Let them lead the conversion.

Don't say:

"Will you stop bloody complaining, you think you feel bad, you're giving me a headache!"

When approaching someone you know with cancer remember that they're still the person you knew before cancer, the situation has changed, they haven't.

*if the cancer patient does bite your ankle, try and look on the bright side, at least they will probably know the quickest way to A&E for you to get a Tetanus.  Good Luck!


  1. Hi Carl, Hope you are ok.
    Jayne x

  2. Hi Carl, it's Carl here and it seems our boat is filling. I was diagnosed with PC (would have preferred a laptop, much less ballast) in September 2014.
    Just a thought about a new list. What to say, as a PC patient, when somebody asks "can I do anything for you?" My favourite is to ask them if they can sing. The reactions can be very interesting. The surgeon who implanted my port and I sang Louis Armstrong's What A wonderful world during the operation. Singing is so therapeutic.
    All the best carl.peters'at'

  3. Thanks for taking time to put your story on it is really good to read. Its a distant friend of ours who has been diagnosed with PC but they are operating this Friday but word has it it has spread so not sure what they are going to do in the operation. I would feel like saying take everything out you can. He's 53 but an interesting read on cancer research I just read was about a trial they have done but not been published yet saying take omega 3 I would imagine the best quality one to slow it down and the chemo drug you mentioned works better too. It was actually on the cancer research page and sounded like it might be worth a read.
    Laboratory studies have shown that omega 3 fish oil may slow down the growth of pancreatic cancer cells and speed up the rate that the cancer cells self destruct (apoptosis). Researchers have also found that the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine worked better against pancreatic cancer cells when patients had omega 3 fish oil at the same time. A phase 2 trial is looking at gemcitabine with omega 3 fish oil for pancreatic cancer that has started to grow into the surrounding tissues or has spread to other parts of the body. This trial has closed and we are waiting for the results.
    Hoping things are good with you Carl.
    Thinking of you Shirley