Your Comprehensive Guide to Aesthetic
Issues During Cancer Treatment

Cancer Etiquette by Elyn Jacobs



Help a friend without “I know how you feel” and other etiquette flubs

Elyn Jacobs, a cancer strategist and author, knows all about the etiquette – or lack thereof – during cancer treatment. Here she shares tips to help a friend or family member during her treatment, learned both from her practice as a cancer coach…and her own battle with breast cancer:

Well-meaning friends and family often do not know what to say when they hear the words “I have cancer.” At a time when we need them the most, they are often at a loss for what they can do to help, physically and emotionally.
Face it, cancer is a showstopper, and well-meant actions and words can be detrimental to the fragile state of the cancer patient. To make things worse, those with cancer sometimes end up being the therapist to loved ones and friends who can’t deal with the situation; they may end up playing host when they should be at the receiving end of care.

So here are some tips on etiquette:

1. If you haven’t had cancer or don’t have a crystal ball, don’t say things like “I know how your feel” or “you will be fine” or “don’t worry, it will be okay”.
2. Don’t put on your “expert hat” and tell her tales of friends who had cancer and survived by drinking snake oil. Offer your support, offer your love, but keep your advice to yourself.
3. Don’t tell her you know someone who had cancer and died.
4. Don’t say anything that begins with “at least”—as in at least you have the “good kind of cancer” or “at least it was caught early.
5. Don’t say, “If there’s anything I can do, just let me know.” Such a statement involves action on her part, not yours.
6. Don’t offer help if you don’t intend to follow through.
7. Don’t tell her to have a positive attitude. While having the affirmation to beat cancer is a good thing, being required to be happy about it is not.
8. Don’t show up to visit with a brood of kids for her to feed and don’t expect her to entertain you.
9. Don’t avoid her because you can’t deal with the situation.
10. Don’t expect her to reassure you that she will make it through.

So what can you do?

1. Offer to accompany her to the doctor.
2. Offer to field phone calls so she can get some rest.
3. Offer to pick her kids up at school and drop off dinner.
4. Invite her to go for a walk with you if she is up to it. Or you can offer just to sit and listen, really listen.
5. You can say, “I don’t know what to say” and give her a hug (see above—don’t avoid her— she needs you now).
6. Acknowledge that she is not just her cancer; she is a person with cancer who might like to talk about something other than her cancer.
7. Once treatment is over, acknowledge to her that there is no going back to the old normal. There’s nothing quite like a cancer diagnosis to challenge your inner core. We will hear, “but I thought you were done with treatment?” As if our lives are normal again post formal treatment.

The truth is, nothing for her will ever be the same.


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