So... here are a few things I would suggest NOT saying to a cancer patient...
I had a friend with cancer. She died.
Really??? I've just been diagnosed with cancer and you're telling me about a friend who DIED? For the record, that is NOT encouraging!!! I'm already scared - as well as my family. We don't need reminded of what might happen. Instead, tell me you're praying for me. Those are the most encouraging words EVER!
My friend was so sick during chemo.
Are you okay?
This is actually a question that irritated my kids. No, they're not okay. Their mom has cancer, has no hair, and is getting chemo. They don't even understand what is happening and have no idea how/when it's going to end. Instead, tell them you're praying for them and for their mom. Like stated above, those are the most encouraging words EVER!
One thing that was an encouragement for me and my family was the Barnabas box my friends and co-workers put together for me. Read about how my kids were blessed by it HERE.
Did you hear that asparagus (or whatever latest fad) is supposed to cure cancer?
My reply back to that would be (in my head, of course): And have you had cancer that was healed just from eating asparagus? I'm not against alternative treatments, but a newly diagnosed cancer patient is so overwhelmed that anything not already tried and true is too scary. Yes, asparagus is scarier than chemo! At least chemo has success stories - REAL success stories.
I have to be able to trust my team of doctors. Encourage me as I follow my treatment plan.
Unsolicited hair advice.
Until you've gone through losing your hair, wearing headbands, scarves, or wigs, and experienced the awkward growing out stage, don't give hair advice. For me, taking the step to quit wearing my wig was terrifying. So, whatever stage of hair I'm at, just tell me it looks good - HA!
And maybe the most annoying thing to say to a cancer patient is...
I care about what's going on with other people, but when their hang nail is the hot topic of the day while I'm immunosuppressed, eating Gas-X like candy, and using Germ-X like lotion, it's
Just be considerate. Although I may not complain or let you know every little thing I'm going through, it doesn't always mean everything is going great. Let's help each other keep things in perspective.
I think that pretty much covers my "What Not to Say..." list. Just like in any situation, be considerate and encouraging. Sometimes just thinking before speaking will make all the difference. If you don't know what to say, ask a question. It shows you're interested and lets the cancer patient lead the conversation.
And if you're afraid you might say the wrong thing...which is always forgivable... you can write a note that simply says (because sometimes less is more):
Thinking about you!
When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need - words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you.
~ Ephesians 4:29 (New Century Version)