A mother facing cancer and daughter smile together as they learn how to communicate about the mother’s disease.

Communicating With Empathy: How to Talk to a Loved One Facing Cancer

Striking up a conversation with a family member with cancer can leave you feeling awkward and unsure of what to say. Should you bring up their diagnosis right away, or avoid the C word altogether? Is it ok to try to make the person laugh? What if they start crying? Conversations become loaded with unspoken emotions, and finding the right words isn’t easy.

You aren’t alone in this struggle. Many families facing cancer grapple with the challenge of communicating effectively in the midst of the uncertainty and fear.

Below are a few tips to bear in mind to better navigate these complicated conversations:

  • Take care of yourself: Supporting a person with cancer can be emotionally taxing. Don’t forget to prioritize your own well-being and seek support when you need it. By taking proper care of yourself, you will be better able to support the person you love in the long run.
  • Respect their boundaries: Every person’s journey with cancer is unique. Respect their wishes regarding privacy and disclosure, and let them steer the conversation. Listen. Sometimes, the most comforting thing you can do is to lend an empathetic ear. Allow them to share their fears, frustrations, and hopes without judgment or interruption.
  • Be sincere: Avoid clichés and platitudes that may feel empty. Instead, speak from the heart and offer sincere words of support and encouragement.
  • Offer practical help: 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 positive change in their everyday life.

In conjunction with these tips, it is critical to remember that every individual’s knowledge about cancer is unique, and what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Flexibility and empathy are fundamental when navigating these sensitive conversations.

Finally, do not 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 enormous comfort in 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.

Contact Home Health Companions for help, too. Our caregivers are trained and experienced in supporting people that have cancer as well as the families who love them with an array of services, including:

  • Light housekeeping, laundry, and linen changes
  • Friendly companionship to brighten each day
  • Respectful assistance with personal care and hygiene, preserving independence and dignity
  • Running errands, like food shopping and picking up prescriptions
  • Planning and preparing healthy meals, taking into consideration difficulty with appetite or any other challenging symptoms
  • And much more

Serving Westlake, University Park, Southlake, and the surrounding areas, we are just a phone call away at 214-295-8213.