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    No.197: 18 Positive Messages for Cancer Patients to Brighten Their Day

    If your loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, you may feel like you're walking on eggshells: How can you offer comfort or assistance to that person? How do you know that you’re saying the right thing? As unsure as you may be about finding the right sentiment to say or send in a note, it’s important to show your support and love to your friend or family member. Read on to discover 18 positive things you can say to your friend that can uplift their spirits during this challenging time. 

    hands creating a heart shadow

    18 Positive Messages For Cancer Patients To Brighten Their Day

     If you’re feeling stuck on what’s appropriate to say to someone with cancer, we’ve come up with a few ideas for you. Here are 18 messages to say to your loved one that can make a world of difference. 

    1. You are stronger than you know

    Navigating a health issue is difficult enough, but a cancer diagnosis turns someone’s world upside-down. All those changes can take a physical and emotional toll, and some days are certainly more of a struggle than others.  No matter how difficult it may feel, everyone needs to hear that they’re stronger than they realize. 

    2. I am here for you through all the ups and downs

    Everyone has both good and bad days, but to let someone know that you’re going to be there through it all means everything. Even when battling becomes tough, your loved one can take solace knowing that you will be right by their side through thick and thin.  

    3. I’ve been thinking about you 

    Sometimes saying you’ve been thinking about someone is better than asking them how they’ve been doing. Let your loved ones know that they’re in your thoughts. This also opens up the door for them to start the conversation and share what they feel comfortable sharing, instead of them feeling obligated to rehash details about their treatment. 

    4. I treasure our friendship

    When someone’s dealing with something as complex asbreast cancer, they may feel all the weight on their shoulders. If this sounds like a loved one, a great way to reassure them is to let them know that it’s OK to take care of themselves before anyone else. Tell them how much their friendship means to you and that it’ll continue to stay that way, no matter what. 

    5. I care about you 

    Telling your loved one that you care is such a simple act but holds a lot of meaning. This is a great starting point if you aren’t sure how to navigate their new diagnosis. After saying this, tell them that you’re there for them whenever they want to talk and let them know how much they mean to you. 

    6. You are not alone in this journey

    The most valuable thing you can tell someone is that they aren’t alone. This can take on literal and metaphorical meaning. In a literal sense, you can visit your friend, help them find counseling groups, or introduce them to others who are undergoing cancer treatment or who are in remission. On a metaphorical level, this is yet another way to remind your loved one that they have someone who they can count on during their most difficult moments.

    7. The potential within you is greater than the obstacles around you 

    No matter how difficult something may be, everyone has the ability to rise above it. But when the mountain simply seems too high to climb, they may need a reminder that theycan make it through a particularly tough moment. If your loved one is feeling particularly discouraged, they may appreciate a reminder that they do have what it takes to meet their challenges. 

    8. I’m counting down the treatment days along with you 

    Knowing how many treatment days your friend has left truly shows how much you care without saying it. If you want to count together, go to your local department store and pick up a calendar or whiteboard to add to your kitchen. To go the extra mile, show up to their last treatment day and congratulate them on finishing this course. 

    9. I’m here if you want to talk

    By saying you’re thereif they want to talk, you’re giving them the option to open up and share what they are comfortable sharing. This way, they won’t feel forced to share their feelings if they don’t want to. It’s important to remember that you’re their friend, not their therapist. It’s OK if your friend doesn’t want to talk all the time. Simply watching a movie together is fine, too. 

    10. It’s OK to put yourself first

    We all want to give our friends and family the world, no matter what condition we’re in. Letting your loved ones know that it’s okay to take care of themselves first is so important -- and it’s perfectly alright when they do so. If they have kids, offer to make them dinner one night, or simply carpool to their next soccer game. Letting your friends know that you can help out for a while and allow them to heal is completely warranted and will certainly be appreciated. 

    11. “Cancer is a word, not a sentence.”

    Journalist and broadcaster John Diamond mentioned this quote after he was diagnosed with throat cancer. Dr. Robert Buckman later wrote a book about day-to-day life with cancer using this quote as a title. Whether as a standalone quote or a whole book, this serves as a reminder that assuming the worst after a cancer diagnosis, especially one like breast cancer with very high treatment success rates, may not be the case.

    12. When would you like some company?

    Some people don’t want to entertain and talk to others 24/7, which is completely OK. Asking your friend or loved one when they want company not only shows that you acknowledge that they need space, but also that you truly care about them and their mental health. Give them the time they need and be there for them once they’re ready. 

    13. I am here to help

    When someone says “I’m here to help,” it’s important that they mean it. When you tell someone with cancer that you’re there to help, make sure that you follow through. You can offer to get them food, watch a movie with them, or even help them catch up on housework. 

    14. “Nothing can be done without hope.”

    Hope and faith can be powerful drivers for some individuals coping with cancer. This quote from Helen Keller reinforces the idea that even the most exhausting, emotionally rattling, and physically draining experience can be approached with optimism. While there are times that are definitely going to be easier than others to hold this principle top of mind, if your loved one wants to look on the bright side, this quote can be an excellent reminder.

    15. You’re one of the toughest people I know

    Everyone needs to hear that they’re a badass every once in a while. Not every day will you see someone deal with pain, doctors, and ongoing treatments with such grace and beauty. Let your loved one know and remind them how amazing they truly are. 

    16. We’re in this together

    With this statement, you’re putting yourself into the equation. Your loved one may not ask you for help or support. Instead, you just need to give it. Let them know you’re in this for the long haul just as much as they are. Depending on your loved one’s situation, “together” can take on different forms: Maybe they need help with daily care, or they just want you to help take their mind off cancer treatment. Either way, be sure to commit once you say the words. 

    17. Can I come with you to some of your appointments? 

    This is a very polite way to get yourself involved, without stepping on anyone’s toes. If you or they aren’t comfortable with actually going to the appointment, you can offer to drive them, keep them company in the waiting room, and wait for them to finish. Even if you don’t understand much about cancer, just being a hand to hold can mean a lot to your friend or family member. 

    18. I love you

    Finally, telling someone you love them is one of the sweetest and most powerful things you can say. Sometimes you don’t need to say anything that’s uplifting: just by saying I love you, it signals that you care and you’re holding space for your friend or family member. It tells them that they matter, they’re important, and that you feel for  them deeply. 

    posted note on fridge that says "I love you"

    How To Write Your Own Message To Someone With Cancer

    A personal note can be a powerful way to communicate your well wishes to a loved one diagnosed with cancer. There are some common do’s and don’ts when sitting down to pen your letter. Here are a few general rules of what you should do when writing out the note. 

    • Keep it short and sweet. You don’t need to write an award-winning novel. Instead, stick to the point. A simple paragraph to a page is long enough to show your loved one how much you care.
      Make it personal. A letter will truly matter to someone when it comes from the heart and is clearly shown that it’s meant for them. Take this a step further by adding personalized touches to the card, like a photo, or by designing the card yourself. 
    • Let them know you’re thinking of them. Mentioning any of the 18 statements listed in this article would work perfectly in a letter to your friend. Stating that you’re thinking about them, care about them, and you are there when they want to talk is a simple way to show how much you love them.
    • Don’t offer advice.If you haven’t personally encountered something before, like being diagnosed with cancer, it’s best not to offer advice. Instead of giving advice, offer practical help or assistance, such as rides to the doctor’s office or assistance with childcare.
    • Say you’re there for them. When times are tough, especially when it comes to treating cancer, hearing a loved one say that they’re there for you can greatly impact their mood. Whether it’s treating them with a cup of tea and a nice meal, or simply listening to them speak about their day, this can make a difference in their day and allow them to think about something other than what they’re battling. 

    How To Make Your Positive Message Have Some Meaning 

    Although these 18 messages are great starting points and most definitely can brighten a person’s day, it’s important to personalize your message. After all, you know this person better than anyone else, so it’s important to say something you know they’ll appreciate. AnaOno’s resources on  what to say to someone with cancer can be a great starter guide.  

    Dana Donofree

    Dana Donofree

    Founder and CEO of AnaOno. After a diagnosis of breast cancer in her late 20’s, Dana took her own lived experience and fashion design background and (re)designed intimates for those that have undergone breast surgery. Dana’s story has been published around the world in outlets like New York Times, BBC, Huffington Post, The Today Show, and more.