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How to Speak with Empathy to a Loved One With Cancer


Striking up a conversation with a loved one with cancer can sometimes be awkward and leave you feeling unsure of what to say. Should you jump right in and talk about the elephant in the room, or steer clear of the C word altogether? Is it ok to try to make the person laugh? What should I do if they start crying? Interactions become laden with unspoken emotions, and finding the right words is not easy. 


You're not alone in this endeavor. Many families dealing with cancer grapple with the challenge of communicating effectively in the middle of the uncertainty and fear. Here are a few tips to bear in mind to better navigate these tough conversations:


  • Respect their boundaries: Every person's journey with cancer is different. Respect their wishes regarding privacy and disclosure, and let them guide the conversation. 

  • Be genuine. Avoid clichés and platitudes that may feel empty. Instead, speak from the heart and offer sincere words of support and encouragement. 

  • Offer useful support: Take initiative in offering specific ways you can help, whether it is running errands, preparing meals, or providing transportation to appointments. These small acts of kindness can make a huge difference in their everyday life. 

  • Listen. Sometimes, the most reassuring thing you can do is to lend an empathetic ear. Let them share their fears, frustrations, and hopes without judgment or interruption. 

  • Take good care of yourself: Supporting a loved one with cancer can be emotionally challenging. Make sure to prioritize your own well-being and seek support when you need it. By taking care of yourself, you will end up better able to support the person you love in the long run.


In conjunction with these guidelines, it is important to understand that every individual's knowledge about cancer is different, and what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Flexibility and empathy are key when navigating these sensitive conversations.


Lastly, don't underestimate the power of simply being there for the person you love. Your presence and support, even if you are not certain what to say, can provide huge comfort during this challenging time. So, take a deep breath, show up, and remember that your love and support mean a lot more than you might realize.


Get in touch with The Care Company for help, too. Our caregivers are trained and experienced in supporting those with cancer and the families who love them with a wide range of services, including:

  • Friendly companionship to brighten each day 

  • Respectful assistance with personal care and hygiene, preserving dignity and independence 

  • Running errands, such as food shopping and picking up prescriptions 

  • Planning and preparing healthy meals, taking into consideration difficulties with appetite or any other challenging symptoms 

  • Light housekeeping, laundry, and linen changes

  • And much more


Serving North York, Etobicoke, Markham, as well as the surrounding areas, we’re just a phone call away at (416) 422-2273.

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