Seeking cancer etiquette
June 22, 2012 1:12PM
Updated: July 24, 2012 6:01AM
Dear Annie: I am 28 years old, and one of my friends recently was diagnosed with cancer. While I’m thankful to have known several cancer survivors, I am now at an age where some of my childhood playmates and current peers might be diagnosed with this disease in the near future.
How can I best provide support for cancer victims in an appropriate manner?
I’ve tried to treat my friend the same as always, but I’m not sure that’s always the right response.
Do you have any resources you could offer to help friends of those with cancer in navigating this disease? I’d greatly appreciate it if there was a list of do’s and don’ts.
Clueless on Cancer Etiquette
Dear Clueless: You sound like a wonderful, compassionate friend. The American Cancer Society (cancer.org) offers a helpful list that includes:
Take your cues from the person with cancer. Some people are very private, while others will openly talk about their illness. Don’t feel that cancer is the only topic of conversation you can have. Talk about other things, too. Keep your relationship as normal and balanced as possible. Include your friend in usual projects or social events. Let him be the one to tell you if the commitment is too much to manage. Expect your friend to have good days and bad, emotionally and physically.
Don’t ask for too much detail or explanation. Don’t tell him about other people who have had his type of cancer. Don’t urge him to “stay positive” or tell him “it will be fine.” That can frustrate his need to express himself honestly. Don’t offer to bring books about cancer unless he specifically asks for them.
Try simply to be yourself when you talk to your friend. What matters is that you show you care by being available, offering support and listening.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org