What you say or don’t say to a cancer patient can have a tremendous impact on them. It can be difficult to know what to say, and in other circumstances, you may find yourself saying nothing at all. While we can’t predict how our loved ones will react or how our words might affect them, saying nothing at all can be devastating. Here are some things to consider when talking to someone who has been diagnosed with cancer to ensure that the conversation goes well and that you show them you care.

First, allow yourself to grieve and go through the process of accepting their diagnosis.

It can be an emotional shock to learn that someone you care about has cancer. Before speaking with your loved one, spend time chatting with others and researching their diagnosis. At the moment, your loved one’s life may seem to be spiraling out of control, and it may be difficult for them to talk about how they are. Just as they’re going through a process of grief, you may find that you, too, need to process their diagnosis in your own way.


What to Say

Below are 9 tips on what to say or do for someone with cancer:

1) “I am here for you”

Stay by your loved one’s side as they face this cancer journey. It’s wonderful to have someone to rely on. If you say these words, make sure you truly mean them. The worst thing you can go through is discovering that someone’s words were not true. Actions speak louder than words.

2) Be Honest

Depending on who the person is, being open and honest with them and validating their feelings rather than trying to create an uplifting conversation can be incredibly impactful. For example, “This stink, I’m sorry,” or “Cancer is difficult. It’s not fair. Your feelings are valid.”

3) Let me help you…

This is one of the most important things you can say to a cancer patient. Make sure you inform your loved one what you can do for them rather than “How can I help?”

When someone’s life changes due to cancer, it can be difficult for them to ask for support, especially if they have previously been independent and did not require help from others.

  • “Can I get you some pizza?”
  • “Can I drive your kids to school?”
  • “Do you need someone to drive you to treatment?”


4) You are not alone in this journey.


Cancer does not just affect the person who was diagnosed, it is felt by everyone who knows this person. Your loved one with cancer needs to understand that they are not the only one’s grieving. You may not feel their pain but that doesn’t take away how you are feeling. It is good to express your feelings while holding their hand through this journey.


  • 5) “I am here to listen”

Be there for them when they need it the most. This is a difficult moment, and thoughts of the future can become overwhelming, leaving your loved one facing cancer with intense worry and, in some cases, depression. If they want to talk about their experience, be ready to listen. For many, talking about their worries is an escape and a de-stressor. However, just as much as they need to express themselves, so do you. Make time for yourself to talk about your emotions with someone else or contact a counsellor during this period.

6) Don’t Say

  • You are so strong
  • You are Brave
  • You are an inspiration
  • I could never be as strong as you
  • Everything happens for a reason
  • What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
  • I know how you feel

You could have the best intentions in the world, but sometimes your words don’t come through correctly. This is because when someone is diagnosed with cancer, the only thing they want is to be free of it; they did not ask for it. When you have cancer, the only thing you can do is be tough and fight as hard as you can. There is no other option.


You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have”- Bob Marley


7) Talk about anything but cancer

After all, this person is still a friend or family member. They had a life before their diagnosis, and the things they used to enjoy are still familiar. Ask if they saw the latest episode of “The Bachelor,” or if their youngster has scored his first goal in hockey. Make conversation as it was before their diagnosis; these cheerful chats can mentally shift your loved one away from their current predicament.

8) Gift them something to make them feel loved

Everybody loves a gift. Give them something meaningful or something that will come in handy as they continue their cancer journey. Some nice gifts ideas are:

  • A soft blanket to take to treatment
  • A beanie hat if treatment will make them lose their hair
  • Make them their favorite meal or buy it from their favorite restaurant
  • Give them a good book or buy them a subscription to Netflix
  • Enterade- Enterade is a clinically proven, plant-based medical food that helps to manage the side effects from cancer treatment. Enterade can help relieve discomfort from diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, and unwanted weight loss. Enterade’s unique blend of plant-based amino acids helps by rebuilding the cells that line your intestines, fortifying your gut against the damage caused by cancer treatments. Using Hydro Active Technology, enterade is formulated to hydrate better than water.

As a loved one, all you want to do is take away their pain. Enterade gives you the opportunity to help them manage their side effects, so they can feel better and fight harder against cancer


9)  Lastly, “I love you”

When none of the above seems right, just tell them how much you love them. Sometimes those three words are enough.





13 Good Things to Say to Someone with Cancer | CaringBridge