what to say to someone who has cancer

I’ve been asked this question a number of times and thought it would be worthwhile to post something about it since it is a life-relevant topic that someone might search for on the internet or might simply be wondering just in case a situation occurs.

I want to preface this by acknowledging that everyone is different and what I think would be thoughtful and/or appropriate may not be to someone else. I also want to add that unless you’ve gone through the same exact situation (even cancer experiences differ), there really isn’t anything that would/could alleviate the matter.

  1. Try to understand the person’s personality and situation: Is he/she sensitive? emotional? reserved? Is he/she young/old, with/without children? Is he/she currently in a distraught state? acceptance state? hopeful? in denial? etc. Knowing the person’s personality and situation can help determine what to say and not say. Don’t go about saying things that you would like to hear, but put yourself in the other’s personality. For example, if you are an emotional person but the person who is diagnosed is not, it doesn’t help to try and console using emotions.
  2. Ask how they’re feeling. What’s been on their minds/hearts. But do so with discretion. Sometimes the diagnosed may not want to share, and again, knowing the person’s personality helps. Sharing may be burdensome or overwhelming. But some may appreciate being heard.
  3. (For believers) You are praying for them, and praying. This has been the most meaningful to me because people I personally never knew or met have come to me to share that they’ve been praying for me. And this has been the most uplifting because I know that God is listening, and to know that I’ve been in someone’s thoughts and prayers simply means a lot, especially because I know that everyone is going through their own troubles in life.
  4. (For unbelievers) I would share that I love him/her, that God loves him/her. And because God loves him/her, I need to share the gospel, even if it may seem unwelcome. Sharing the gospel and my testimony seems like the most loving thing a believer can do. I guess a non-believer may think, “If God loves me, why is this happening to me?” and this could be a good segue into sharing why there’s suffering in the first place–another segue into the gospel.
  5. God loves you. The reminder is heartfelt and brings me to tears almost always. To know that our almighty God loves me and knows my suffering is the most comforting. He is the only one who knows my heart, my burdens, my worries; He hears my cries, sees my tears, feels my pain, knows how much it hurts, how tiring everything can be.

It’s been 3.5 years since my diagnosis. The hardest has been my first year. It was spiritually, emotionally, and physically the most difficult; I felt the most vulnerable and distraught. Year two had its ups and downs. Year three has come with some peace, maybe because I have been stable for the most part, but I have also come to terms with death. During my first year, I felt as though I was given a death sentence and I would soon be separated from everyone I loved. Now… well, it’s still heartbreaking, but I also long for heaven where there is no more suffering. (Oh, how I long to be completely healed! Physically and from sin). A period of time would pass until Christ’s coming, a period of time which I would not be aware, and I would wake in a moment to see those I love around me (so I desperately pray for my daughter’s salvation), and it would be a time of celebration. Everything will be perfect and there will be no more pain.

To those who have been diagnosed and to those who have loved ones who are diagnosed,

God loves you and there is hope in Christ.

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