You want to be supportive. You want to say the right thing. You want to be helpful.
Breast cancer is a life-threatening disease that can drastically change the lifestyle of the person diagnosed, as well as their loved ones. It’s emotionally draining and requires a significant amount of, not only physical, but mental strength too.
As a family member, friend, or coworker of someone with breast cancer, it may be hard finding the right thing to say to someone who has just been diagnosed. It may feel awkward to give overtly positive words of encouragement, but it may feel lousy to say something as simple as “Oh no, that’s terrible.”
It’s natural to be extra mindful of what should be said to someone who has been diagnosed. Most importantly, it’s vital to know what should NOT be said to people with breast cancer.
“Fight cancer!”, “I know you can win the fight”, or any comparison to a battle or war is an absolutely inappropriate thing to say. This phrase is extremely common, usually used as a form of encouragement, rooted in acknowledging the strength that must be used when dealing with cancer.
This phrase is problematic because of its outstanding implication. If someone passes away or gets physically weaker from breast cancer, that would technically mean they “lost the battle”. To say that a victim of cancer “lost” the “fight” is implying that the person could have fought harder to ensure they did not “lose”. Or simply calling attention to the fact that their best was not good enough. Two things that a person with breast cancer, and the families of said person, don’t need to hear when mourning.
“I Could Never Do What You’re Doing”
This phrase is meant to sympathize with breast cancer patients but it just comes off as tone deaf. There are many patients who feel like they can’t get through the journey so to them, they can’t do what they’re doing. It feels like a never-ending battle. To emphasize that you personally couldn’t deal with breast cancer can be taken as another weird way of saying “Better you than me because you’re stronger and can handle it”.
When put like that, that doesn’t exactly feel comforting.
As an alternative, you can say “No matter what you do, you’re doing the best you can.” Phrases like this remove the emphasis on your own personal opinions or feelings about the situation. Instead, it provides encouragement that isn’t