Charity Kindness Life Lessons

What to Say When Someone has Cancer + a Giveaway

poppies for cancer

It’s a tough topic, my favourite kind! What to say when someone has cancer .. the more we share ideas and shine light on his conversation the more people know how to support others well. It has taken me many years to find some peace after my own family’s experience with cancer, it was something that rocked us in the midst of another tragedy. It was all a bit of a blur at the time to be honest, being thrown into the role of carer in your teens is about as traumatic as life gets! Since then my levels of resilience and wisdom have soared, and this deep sense of ‘knowing’ has allowed me to go on and support others.

My first piece of heartfelt advice is simply not to ignore, cross the street or pretend that someone you know is OK with you not acknowledging their cancer diagnosis. I’m sorry but as functioning adults this is just not acceptable or excusable. I know that it still happens, in so many areas of life. I have lost count of my own friends (and family) who chose never to speak about my Mother’s tragedy and death. It is the same story with my ongoing mental health issues. It is one of the hardest things to endure as a human being, trust me, just don’t do it.

If you cannot find the words verbally, there is no excuse not to use another method of delivery. A text, a note, a card, a letter, a private message on social media, a voicemail, a carrier pigeon. There is no excuse not to say or write something.

Here is a collection of words and ways to support someone who has cancer:

♡ I am here for you.

♡ What do you need?

♡ It’s perfectly OK if you don’t want to talk about cancer today.

♡ What are the practical things at home that I can help with?

♡ Can I come around and bring some meals for the fridge, would that be helpful?

♡ How about I come along with you to your next appointment or chemo?

♡ I have dropped a little care package at your front door (include things like magazines, healthy snacks, candles, resources from Cancer Council, crystals, healing herbal tea).

♡ How about I collect the kids from daycare/school today?

♡ If you ever feel like some alone time, taking a nap or just a break I will come and grab the kids for a few hours.

♡ Is there anything on your TO-DO list that I can take care of?

The most important thing is to use these words with genuine love and intention. Follow them up regularly, ensure that they are not simply empty offers. A lot of people are deeply resistant to accepting help. The truth is that accepting help is one of the greatest ways to cope and heal, it is also an honour to the person offering the help. It involves a lot of trust and vulnerability and it can deepen a friendship so beautifully.


Jura Coffee contacted me recently about their support of Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea. I’m sure you have heard of this huge national fundraising event, it raises the funds needed to provide many different types of support for people living with cancer and their loved ones, as well as research. If a brand contacts me I immediately think about how we can put more goodness and joy into the world and how we can help others so I knew this would be a lovely fit with this conversation.

You can DONATE here.


Leave a comment on this post choosing which of the suggestions above you would use to open up the conversation with a loved one, colleague or friend who has cancer. Or please share something else you have said or would suggest might be helpful. Please also leave your email address in your comment. (All of the official details of the giveaway are at the end of this post)

By entering you are not only eligible for the prize but you are helping to open up and shine more light on this incredibly important topic of what to say when someone has cancer. 


A Morning Tea Hamper valued at $100 containing:

♡ Robert Gordon Porcelain Round Platter (27 cm)

♡ Annabel Trends linen tea towel

♡ San Antonio Single Origin coffee beans

♡ Bonne Maman assorted French Jam

♡ Charlie’s Chocolate Salted Caramel Mini Melting Moments

♡ Recipe cards




This is a game of skill, all entries will be judged on their relevance, creativity (and kindness).

Entries close at midnight on Monday 27 June 2016.

One entry per person only.

Only open to residents of Australia.

The winner will be notified by email, please be sure to leave your email address in your comment/entry.

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  • Trish MLDB

    I found out during cancer round #2 that our church delivered ready to serve home cooked meals for my family at dinner time – while I was away having radiation was the best. My hubby was so appreciative.

    I did the same in return for a friend – I asked what time would they like a hot dinner delivered . It wasn’t much more effort – just saying – sometimes you don’t even have the energy to reheat a meal.

    I’m not entering let someone who needs it more.

    • admin

      Trish you are so right, it rarely is much more effort, to do or say something that may seem simple yet is often something that makes a huge difference!
      Thank you for being so kind and sharing your thoughts xx

  • Sandra Kelly

    This is such an insightful post. All wonderful and helpful suggestions. I can honestly tell you that the word I now despise the most in the whole world is the word ‘positive’. “Just stay positive”. “Look for the positives”. Although well intentioned, these words are not helpful..When I was going through breast cancer treatment it only made me feel like a failure on those days where ‘staying positive’ was just. not. do-able. I’m not commenting to go in the give-a-way Lisa. I love the awareness you have shared here. Xx

    • admin

      Hi Sandra,
      Thank you so much for your kind words, I have to agree that the effects of the words ‘stay positive’ can be quite complex even when they are delivered with good intentions! I find I feel the same way when these words are used in the mental health space too.
      Thank you again, I really appreciate you taking the time to share your wisdom xx

  • Bronwyn Wainwright

    My sister-in-law is battling breast cancer at present and she is about to start chemo soon. She doesn’t live close enough for me to help her practically very often but just this week, I offered to cook her some meals for the freezer because my husband, who is a fly in fly out worker at the mines, works near where she lives (in a small central Qld town). Usually he flies to & from the nearest major city, then drives a car that he keeps up there to get t the camp where they stay, but this week, because it’s school holidays, the flights are very expensive (we have to pay for his flights). He has decided to drive home this time and that means he will be driving back so I can cook a batch of meals and pack them in styrofoam boxes with ice and he can drop them off to her.
    She was so pleased to have my offer as she had a few meals from some friends but they are running out now. She said that it makes it so much easier to have some food to pull out quickly when she has to go back & forth to and from Mackay for treatment. So I am thrilled that I can finally do something other than offer words of support or encouragement, wondering all the while if I am saying ‘the wrong things’.
    Thanks for the great article. ?

    • admin

      Hi Bronwyn,
      So sorry that your family is going through this, it sounds like you are an amazing support!
      Thank you for being here, and for your kind words about the post xx

  • Jody at Six Little Hearts

    As a current breast cancer patient, I can second this post with experience. Oddly the most help has come from complete strangers and it has been wonderful. It is a shockingly difficult journey from day one and I have a long road ahead of me.
    I would suggest people find it in themselves to rise to the occasion and be genuinely helpful to a person with cancer, even if they find it rather difficult. To a cancer patient, the need to feel supported at this time is immense. Beautiful post!

    • admin

      Jody I hope that you are OK, I will be thinking of you.
      You are not alone, the kindness of strangers is a wonderful thing.
      Sometimes those closest to us are not there, and this is so confusing and heart breaking at times!
      Thank you for being here xx

  • Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid

    I would have loved to hear any or all of these words but especially number one. Having cancer is so weird, you can be in a room full of people but still feel so alone so knowing that you have people who are in your cheer squad and want to support you can mean so much. Beautiful words, as always x

    • admin

      It is so wonderful to have your perspective, although of course not wonderful that so many of us have this insight through our own experience 🙁 xx

  • Helen

    Lisa, your words of encouragement, your openness about your own struggles and suggestions around difficult subjects such as this and many others, are always helpful. We are so uncomfortable around these things and articles like this can only help.

    • admin

      Thank you so much Helen, that is such a beautiful thing for you to say xx
      I’m so grateful to have your presence and appreciation!

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