A doctor's pronouncement of "cancer" is among the most dreaded words anyone can possibly hear. Coming up with encouraging words for a friend diagnosed with cancer, though, can be just the lift they need to get them through the long, difficult road ahead.
Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can be used to treat the cancer itself, but if the sufferer's mind isn't in the right place, they won't have the hope to fight on. While you can't cure the illness, you can offer some hopeful, comforting and encouraging words.
A diagnosis of cancer can make the unfortunate patient feel as if he's removed from everyday life. It can be a time of awful, overwhelming loneliness and a time of feeling out of control. Sometimes the most moving words the sufferer will hear are the most basic: "I'm here for you. Let me know what you need." Saying that and meaning it may be the most incredibly important act of kindness you'll ever do for your loved one.
Let him scream, shout, punch the wall, shake his fist to the sky, but let him do it knowing you've got his back. He may need to just get his fury and anger out before he can respond to the diagnosis rationally and with his full attention.
Maybe what he needs is something simple like someone to go with him to his medical appointments. Just knowing that someone is waiting for him in the waiting room to drive him home can be a real boost.
Cancer patients are facing a tough disease, but it doesn't have to be a lonely one. Let your friend know whatever he needs, however long it takes, you're going to be there for him. Those are among some of the most encouraging words for a friend diagnosed with cancer anyone will ever hear. Here are some examples:
"I'm here for you, my friend. Whatever you need, know that I'm going to be right here for you."
"Can I come with you to some of your doctor's visits? Would that be helpful?"
"I'll help you sort through all your medications and appointments. We'll buy one of those silly little pill boxes and make taking medication a breeze."
"Let's plan a trip. A weekend getaway to anywhere in the world. We'll plan it right in the midst of all this to show cancer you're still the boss of your own life."
Of course cancer is horrible, but once your friend gets the denial and anger out of his system, he's going to need some cheering up. Send him a cheery card, but even better, make it a funny one. He probably could use a chuckle or two, and sometimes just getting your mind off "the Big C" is the best way to fight it.
If the two of you routinely joke over some incident or anecdote, and you know it always elicits a laugh, be on the lookout for similar type jokes you can relate. Cancer is serious business, but neither you nor your friend will last long if all you do is act as if you're planning a funeral.
You should remember that not all cancer is fatal. As long as a patient is still alive, and where there is life and laughter, there's hope. As long as you both can laugh, it'll give you and the cancer sufferer the kind of cheerful courage you'll take to take on a fight like this. Fun times, like a trip for a manicure or a few minutes in the sun on a park bench may be just what's needed. Here are some ways to try to make light of this very difficult situation:
"Guess what? You officially have a "get out of jail free" card for all those lunches you try to avoid with your in-laws!"
"Well, you always wondered what smoking weed was like. Now, you can find out!"
"You were always an overachiever. Thanks for finding the one situation where we can't say, 'Things can always get worse.' Or can they?"
"We're going to buy you the most fabulous earrings. Bald is beautiful, girl."
This is not a good time to research and share new options and new remedies doctors and scientists are working on. You may think you are helping the patient, but each cancer situation is so different that it is important to leave those conversations between the patient, his family and his medical team.
You can do some research about his type of cancer and treatment, and see if there are things you can do to help. Don't expect him to fully explain his cancer and how it is affecting him. You may be able to help him with some of the annoyances a patient can get from chemotherapy or radiation, such as dry mouth or itching.
There's always something that can be done to alleviate these types of nuisance side effects. Letting your friend know that his comfort is a high priority will do a lot to reassure him he's not alone in this fight. Here are some sample words of encouragement:
"Do you want to look up holistic doctors or specialists? I'll roll up my sleeves and help you do the research any time you want. We'll find the best of the best."
"We can start taking yoga and meditation classes, if you'd like. They say it helps clear the mind and calm the soul. What do you think? Smoothies every Tuesday morning?"
"Let's become herbal tea aficionados. All those antioxidants are sure to help cleanse your system and fight the cancer cells."
"Not every bout of cancer is fatal. This is going to be a little blip on the radar. Something we look back on as just another short chapter in life."
There will always be bad days with a fight against cancer, but there will be good ones as well. Let your loved one know you're there for him, even when he's crabby or in a bad mood.
Let him know you understand. Sometimes just listening, day or night, is the best psychological therapy a patient fighting back against a tough disease can have. Here are some reminders on hope:
Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best: "We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope." Hope is something we're still in control of.
"Consider all the people who give up right before the change comes. Whatever you do, never lose hope that each day is bringing new healing."
"Cancer can take away your hair, your energy, your zest. But, it can't take away your ability to hope for the best, no matter what the doctor says tomorrow."
"After all that you've survived, do you really think some cancer cells are going to get the best of you? No way. Don't you ever lose hope in your ability to be an overcomer."
For added inspirational quotes, check out this selection pertaining to the magic of hope.
Most cliches exist for a reason. They're generally true. Remind your friend that each day is its own little battle and they can overcome each and every one. Simply knowing that they're not alone is worth its weight in gold.
If your mind is still searching for the right thing to say, check out Comforting Words for Hard Times. It contains general bouts of wisdom for all of life's complexities.