The Do and Don’t List of Being a Friend to Someone with Cancer

How To Be a Friend to a Survivor of Oral Cancer

Cancer survivors are NOT contagious. There is no need to be afraid. Cancer is NOT a death sentence. Here is how you can be a friend to a cancer survivor.

The Do List

  • Do maintain regular contact; send a card/email often or call.
  • Do listen with an open heart; maintain eye contact.
  • Do say, “I’m sorry you have to go through this. I am here for you.”
  • Do ask yes/no questions so you don’t set him/her up for rejection if you can’t do what they ask. For example, I’m going to the market, can I pick you up anything?” I’m taking the children to the park, can I take yours?” I’m free on Monday’s, can I do your errands?”
  • Do say, “I don’t know what to say,” than saying nothing at all.
  • Do help him/her believe they will make it through. Be positive and encouraging.
  • Do ask the survivor to give you direction about what you can do to help
  • Do make a plan for the future, giving your friend something to look forward to
  • Do collect an arsenal of jokes for humor to balance the blues.


The Don’t List

  • Don’t stop including him/her in activities you would normally do together. Let them tell you they are not up to it that day.
  • Don’t postpone an opportunity to have fun!
  • Don’t use well-meaning but trite phrases such as, “Everything will work out” and “God only gives you what you can handle.”
  • Don’t say, “I know how you feel.”
  • Don’t make comparisons such as, “My aunt had a cancer and….”
  • Don’t trivialize the experience with such phrases as, “It’s just hair; it will grow back.”


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