top of page

Pink Chair Project RVA : Blog #2 “What to Say”

Author:  Kathryn Helen Geranios

You are invited to a conversation...

This blog is meant to encourage meaningful thoughts about coping with breast cancer.

‘How do I, as a friend or family member, show support to breast cancer patients?’

Consider this:

A person close to you has breast cancer. What do you say to that person?

On the Internet, I found the familiar battle cry “to fight cancer” as the common theme.

Knowing we are willing to place ourselves in the battle with those afflicted can bolster the spirit; but, for others, this expression depends upon how the patients will receive it at the time.

Only the patients know how they feel, where they are in the prognosis, and how much they have chosen to share with others. In today’s uncertain world, a fight may sound like an unwelcome struggle. Patients may be battling multiple emotions. The message may help some but not others.

Patients need to know we are with them throughout their treatment as they are. They need to know they are much more than a cancer patient. They need to know we are there.

This site is helpful.

Research from the United Kingdom suggests what not to do or say as well as what to do and what to say.

Two messages to avoid:

1.    Saying, “I know how you feel.” Even if you are a cancer survivor, the best is what you think you know from your own experience. Say instead, “I am sorry you are going through this time. How can I help you? Let’s share this journey.”

2.    “Comparing their experience with someone else’s. Each situation is unique.” Focus your attention to understand how they feel and what they want from you.


On the flip side are two positive suggestions:


1.    “Choose a private place [to talk] …it’s ok to feel awkward and sad”; let the patient lead the emotional sharing. Empathy can promote healing talk.

2.    “Respect the need for privacy” … “Giving them a friendly hand squeeze or hug – it can go a long way.”

From my experience with my sister Maria who suffered from cancer of the gall bladder, I can attest to the healing power of touch. At her invitation, I repeatedly massaged her upper torso, arms, hands, and fingers with her favorite coconut oil. This sensory experience of touch and smell was the basis of our trust and rapport at the hospital. It was what she wanted. It was enough.

“You have healing hands. I feel good,” she said, “Thank you. I love you. “


Additional References:

Self-management support from the perspective of patients with a chronic condition: a thematic synthesis of qualitative studies

J. Dwarswaard and others.

Health Expectations. Vol 19, Issue 2. April 2016.


The effect of individualized patient education, along with emotional support, on the quality of life of breast cancer patients - A pilot study

S.Sajjad and others. 

European Journal of Oncology Nursing. Vol 21, April 2016, p75-82. 



40 views0 comments


bottom of page