6 Things Not to Say to Someone With Breast Cancer
Experts caution that when caring for someone with breast cancer, there are six things caregivers often say -- in an attempt to be sympathetic, supportive, or encouraging -- that can have just the opposite consequence, shutting down communication and making her feel worse.
Psychiatrist Jeffrey Knajdl, director of psycho-oncology services at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, points to these six common sayings to avoid, along with suggestions for what to say instead:
"Everything is going to be all right."
You have no way of knowing if it will be or not, says Knajdl, and such a statement ends up sounding like an empty platitude -- plus you establish a sense of mistrust. "It doesn't make her feel better," says Knajdl, "because she knows it's not necessarily true and just makes her feel dismissed and not heard."
What to say instead: What a woman with breast cancer really wants to hear is that you're going to be there for her through the good times and the bad, and that she's not going to go through breast cancer treatment alone. There will be days when it does feel like everything's going to be all right, and you'll be there to celebrate that with her, but there will be days when discouraging test results come in or she's in pain -- and you'll be there for that, too. "When you talk to patients, their two big fears are that they won't make it through treatment, and that they'll be alone and in pain," says Knajdl. "Just keep telling her that you'll be there with her and you'll make it through this together."