What Not to Say to a Cancer Patient

‘What do you think is the most commonly asked question of a person who has, or has had, cancer? If you guessed, “How are you?” you got it right.

But as caring as those words may seem, they are often not helpful and may even be harmful. At a celebratory family gathering a year after my own cancer treatment, a distant relative asked me just that. I answered, “I’m fine.” She then pressed, “How are you really?”“Really” I was fine, I told her.

But what if I hadn’t been? Would I have wanted to launch into a description of bad medical news at what was supposed to be a fun event? Would I have wanted even to be reminded of a bout with cancer? Although my relative undoubtedly meant well, the way her concern was expressed struck me as intrusive…’

Source: Jane Brody, New York Times

2 thoughts on “What Not to Say to a Cancer Patient

  1. Dec. 2016 Reading your “Gelwan” post years later – one thing led to another. I do my own family research as time permits. Sharon Wyman’s grandaughter is living in Berlin right now. Also, mainstream/commercial as it may seem, is amazing what exists on Ancestry.com. The New England Historic Geneaological Society on Newbury St. has extensive resources available to members (they used to offer a one day visitor’s rate, not sure about now.) Staff geneaologists are on site (often in the library) and in my experience are happy to answer questions. – Laura B.


    1. Thanks! May go down to the NEHGS and ask for pointers.I am reposting the post to which you were referring in case it attracts some new notice.


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