When a friend or loved one is battling cancer, sometimes the thing they need most from you is support. Sometimes, you can be most helpful if you can listen when they want to talk, be available when they need help, and treat them normally, not like they are a burden.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Cheryl Beatrice offers these 5 comforting things to say to someone with cancer.

  1. “I’m thinking about you.” This simple phrase can mean a lot to someone going through a cancer diagnosis. It doesn’t require your friend or loved one to respond, and it won’t add to their inevitable stress. Instead, it just shows you care and are there for them.
  2. “I’ll help you with (a specific chore or duty).” Offering to do simple things like helping with laundry, picking up the kids or cooking a meal can do wonders for someone with cancer. Many of those diagnosed with cancer don’t want to feel like they are a burden on friends and family. It’s easier for them to say “yes” when you offer to help with a specific task, rather than asking them what they need.
  3. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through; I’m here for you if you want to talk, or, if you prefer, I can just be here to keep you company.” Some people don’t want to talk about their diagnosis, and you have to accept that. Simply telling your friend or loved one that you’re there for them can be comforting. If/when they do want to talk, listen and acknowledge their feelings without discussing your feelings of fear. Sitting with them in silence is a wonderful way of offering support and be present. This is harder than it seems because we’ve been taught to fill silence. 
  1. “I admire how you’re handling this with such grace.” Even if it this does not seem evident, hearing this positive affirmation can enhance your friend or loved one’s feelings of competency, strength, and resilience. It may even open a conversation about how they are coping and provide you with an opportunity to help.
  2. “Even though it may feel like it, you’re not facing this alone.” Letting someone know that they have you by their side to comfort them can be the best gift you can give. Be sure to back this statement up with frequent visits or phone calls so they truly know they are loved, cared for and strong.

If you don’t know what to say, it’s better to admit that than to stop calling or visiting. Sometimes, just being there for your friend or loved one can be one of the best things you can do.

Click here to learn what not to say to someone with cancer.