I have a friend who several years ago was diagnosed with a recurance of her breast cancer after 15 years of being cancer free. Needless to say, this was a very traumatic and emotional time for her, her family, and friends. One of the hardest things for anyone dealing with a cancer diagnosis and treatments is how others relate to them. And, one of the hardest things for friends, family and acquaintances is knowing how to help and not make it worse. And, in our attempts to support and show caring, we often say exactly the wrong thing.
There is no one right answer to what to say but the best guide is to take your cue from the person you are relating with. Just like anyone else, a person with cancer will sometimes be angry, depressed, amused, positive, helpless, independent--in other words, human.
When I, and my family and friends, were working through the experience of cancer, I created a one page Cancer Guide (pdf) to help make it easier to feel positive and comfortable that were are positively supporting the person with cancer.
In our culture, about 1 in 3 people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point, so all of us will be relating to someone we know and care about with cancer. Hopefully, this guide will go along way to help us support and be supported during that journey.
For more information and support when faced with cancer in you or a loved one or friend, check out Cancer Support Community of Central Texas (or find one near you).