How to Better Communicate With Someone Battling Cancer

An adult child laughs with her mom who is battling cancer.
Use these tips to better communicate with someone battling cancer.


Talking to someone battling cancer can leave you feeling a bit unsure and uneasy. What’s the right thing to say? Should you jump right in and talk about the elephant in the room, or steer clear of the C word altogether? Is it ok to try and be funny? What should I do if they start crying? Interactions become loaded with unspoken emotions, and finding the right words is not easy.

It understandable to feel the sensitivity of the situation. Many families dealing with cancer grapple with the challenge of communicating effectively in the midst of the fear and uncertainty. Here are some suggestions to bear in mind to better navigate these complicated conversations:

Offer practical assistance: Suggest specific ways you can help like preparing meals, running errands, or providing transportation to appointments. These small acts of kindness can make a big difference in their day to day life.

Keep their personal boundaries in mind: Every person’s journey with cancer is different. Respect their wishes regarding privacy and disclosure, and let them steer the conversation.

Don’t forget about yourself: Supporting someone with cancer can be emotionally taxing. Make sure you prioritize your own well-being and seek support when you need it. By taking proper care of yourself, you’ll be better able to support the person you love in the long run.

Be as genuine as possible: It’s important to sound as human as possible and avoid coming off as hollow. Instead, speak from the heart and offer sincere words of encouragement and support.

Listen: Sometimes, the most encouraging action you can take is to lend an empathetic ear. Let them share their fears, frustrations, and hopes without interruption or judgment.

In addition to these tips, it is vital to remember that every individual’s knowledge about cancer is unique, and what works for one person might not necessarily work for another. Empathy and flexibility are fundamental when navigating these sensitive conversations.

Above all, remember that just showing up for someone battling cancer is valuable. Your presence and support, even if you are not sure what to say, can provide huge comfort in this challenging time. So, take a breath, be present, and remember that your love and support mean a lot more than you may realize.

Get in touch with Sage Home Care for help, too. Our team is trained and experienced in supporting individuals with cancer as well as the families who love them with a variety of services, including:

Friendly companionship to brighten every day Respectful support with personal care and hygiene, preserving independence and dignity

Light housekeeping, laundry, and linen changes

Planning and preparing healthy meals, taking into consideration difficulties with appetite or other challenging symptoms

Running errands, like food shopping and picking up prescriptions

And much more

Serving Pawling, Somers, South Salem, as well as the surrounding areas, we’re here to help online or at 800-578-4554.


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