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How to be a friend in the wake of a cancer diagnosis

Recently, I learned that a former colleague of mine – the graphic designer in the office next to mine who was laid off unexpectedly several weeks ago – was diagnosed with lymphoma. This all happened as his wife prepares for breast cancer treatments.

It amazes my colleagues and me how upbeat he seems to be. But we’re no less heartbroken and feeling helpless. Fortunately, New York Times health writer Jane Brody provides ideas on what to say and do when someone you care about is diagnosed with cancer.

There are practical ideas (“meal trains” to deliver family meals and school lunches, gifts of massages, help with child care), but also this from Lynda Wolters, cancer patient and author of the book “Voices of Cancer,” speaking of those who have no idea what to say and often avoid the patient in their lives:

“I would rather see your face and the pain and fear in your eyes than to have you feel too unsure and awkward to see me. I would rather hear about you, your work, your life, your kids and your puppy’s antics than I would about my sickness.”