Three years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  While I was enduring scans, procedures, and surgeries to determine what treatment I would need, I heard a lot of comments that left me baffled.  I knew these comments were made by well-meaning friends and family, but they were also unintentionally hurtful.

After my final biopsy, I had been waiting for days in anticipation of a phone call to hear whether or not I had breast cancer. When I answered the phone, my doctor stumbled on his words and couldn’t get them out. I knew the answer from his tone so I said, “I have breast cancer, right?" He simply said, “I’m sorry."

It doesn’t matter if it’s breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, or brain cancer. There are several things you CAN say when someone tells you they have been diagnosed with cancer.

I am here for you.

The first person I told was a friend I’d only known for a short while. I had received the call from my doctor as I was picking up my twelve-year-old son from school. He jumped into the car just as I hung up. I asked him about his day, never letting on something was wrong. We were meeting friends at McDonald's and when we arrived there, he ran off with his friends. Finally I could process the bad news. His friend’s mom asked me if I was OK as we walked outside, and that’s when I lost it . I told her the news I’d just received. I hadn’t even told my husband yet. She replied, “I’m glad you told me and I am here for you." I really needed to hear that at that moment. 

Offer encouragement.

On hearing the news, another friend encouraged me by sharing scripture with me. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster. To give you a future and a hope.” That scripture resonated with me so much because I knew that no matter what I was going through, God already knew and had a plan.  I had so much peace knowing that He was in control and all I had to do was trust in Him. I was especially moved when friends and family would send cards with words of encouragement and hope or when someone brought me lunch or a gift.

Offer to help.

If you know someone is home recovering from treatment, ask if there is something you can do. Then do it, even if it’s a small gesture! I needed help taking to and picking up my kids from school. Another friend offered to start a sign-up sheet in our Bible study group to bring dinner for us since I couldn’t cook. These things were helpful and so much appreciated.

Offer to pray. 

Knowing I had people praying for me brought me so much comfort. God does hear our prayers, and I know He heard mine as well as everyone around me who was praying.  Matthew 18:20 tells us that where two or more are gathered, He is there. 

Say nothing.

It’s okay to be quiet. I have been on both the receiving end and giving ends of help. Friends helped me when I was going through treatment, and I've helped others after I finished treatment. I can tell you there were times I wasn’t feeling good and didn’t feel like chatting. In fact, sometimes it just wore me out. I have driven friends to radiation or chemo treatment and told them, "No need to talk, just rest. I’m here if you need anything." One friend asked me to read from a devotional during her treatment. She told me later that it gave her so much peace as she laid back and closed her eyes to let the word of God seep into her.

One of my favorite devotionals which I read every day is the Jesus Calling devotional by Sarah Young.  I received this simple, yet powerful book from a friend and I still read it every day.  Now I pay it forward and give this book as a gift. Would you like to donate a Jesus Calling devotional to a woman battling cancer? Go here to find out how!