What To Say: To A Cancer Survivor

So many people have said to me, “You look fantastic!”

Why focus on how I look? You probably have little idea about my quality of life compromises that you cannot see on the outside. For me, I had bilateral vocal chord polyps and nodules, basal cell carcinoma in my radiated field, ringing in my ears, periodontal disease, numerous health scares and tests, and the list goes on -things you cannot possibly know from how I look.

It’s better to say, “It’s so great to see you.” This suggests you have considered that maybe you would not see me again, which was a real possibility in my case. It acknowledges what I may have gone through rather than diminish it.

I love this quote: ‘Illness does not DETERMINE who we are, it REVEALS who we are.’ (Grace Paley)

To a cancer survivor or someone who has been through a life-altering event: a few suggestions on what to say:

“Your illness gives me pause for self-reflection”

“Your courage gives me strength.”

“You have given me new-found wisdom.”

“It’s a privilege to know you.”

“I am focussing on gratitude, thanks to you.”

These words feel empowering. You are saying on some level that I have left a footprint, a legacy on how to live. I’m comforted knowing that my suffering did not go unnoticed or unappreciated. That is powerful. That would make my day!

What other statements can you add to this list?

What to say

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Comments 3

  1. Thank you for this blog. The dentist that I work for is awesome and has a beautiful family. His wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer just before Christmas. She is a strong, amazing woman, but sometimes it is hard to know what to say when I see her. I love your suggestions for uplifting and empowering words…and who better to know what is appropriate and needed in that situation than you? Thanks for all you do. You are amazing.

    1. Post

      Sometimes it is just best to say the truth, “I don’t know what to say because there are no words to explain this happening to you. But know that I care about you.” Then say something empowering like, “You are leaving a legacy to all who know you how to live with courage.”

  2. Makes sense…the truth is much better than a mass of awkward words tumbling out, or worse-silence- because you can’t think of anything to say, or are afraid to say something ridiculous. 🙂 Thank you.

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