What do I say to someone diagnosed with cancer?

It’s breast cancer awareness month and this means you can buy anything pink. In fact, I challenge you to find something not pink during this month.

Unfortunately, though, what you can’t buy with those pink items is an education about breast cancer (or any cancer) including, prevention.

And while I’m so happy we can talk about breast cancer considering there was a time when women suffered in silence, I do think we need to do more than “pinkwash.” I think education should be the focus.

So today, let’s start with three things you can say to the newly diagnosed should you find yourself at a loss for words.

3 Simple Phrases


“I’m sorry”

The reality is this; there are no words of wisdom at a time like cancer. The word “cancer” alone can clear a room or a social calendar. It can render you speechless.

Saying these these seemingly little words can convey you’re concern and care without saying things that could offend. You can always go back later and say more heartwarming words once you’ve collected your thoughts.

“What can I do?”

I think these words speak volumes especially for the newly diagnosed. I remember walking out of the breast clinic the day I got my diagnosis and thinking, what comes next?

Chemotherapy is big, ugly and scary and each person has their own reaction to it. So just knowing you can count on someone to do anything for you is comforting.

“I’m gonna love you through it”

These are words plucked right out of Martina McBride’s song entitled “I’m gonna love you through it.” But they are perfect! However you say it, the best thing you can say is that you are going to be right there with them. There’s no greater gift.


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2 thoughts on “What do I say to someone diagnosed with cancer?

  1. I am a breast cancer survivor too. When i walk into the oncologist’s office, I always look at the sad faces, and I look for the security camera, and then sometimes I say, “Everyone Smile!” And strangely they do, and then we all start talking about happy things or silly things we remember from our cancer experience.

    Other times I will admire something a particular lady is wearing, or sometimes I just say, “You are so lovely. You seem to glow. How do you manage it?” And suddenly her face lights up and she begins to talk, and we get to talking and she smiles again. I have never had a sad response. I think when we have cancer we need to smile and say happy things more than anything. If we should pass on, at least let it be that everyone we knew remembers our smiles and our happy thoughts. Of course we are all sorry, but women who have breast cancer have enough to deal with, for most men think of that as losing our femininity, even though it is not true. So let’s try to help others to feel happy. Talk about things like how when you first got it, you did not know how to find an oncologist. And then you can throw in some happy or silly responses, like “What do you use as a guideline? When I got it, I wanted to ask him . . .” Something that will invariably make others laugh, or get them to talking. Try to be encouraging about things to help yourself, etc. We all need that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Anne! Thank you for chiming in on this. I know you well enough to know you bring sunshine into every room you’re in. “Let’s try to help others to feel happy.” THAT’s the best thing we can do for each other even those who don’t have a cancer battle. Sending you much love!


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