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What Should I Say to Someone Who Has Cancer?

What shoud I say to someone who has cancer?  Or some other dreadful disease? Or someone who has suffered a great loss? 

Have you struggled with these questions?  I certainly have.  I’ve never felt equipped with the exact right words, and I have let this hold me back from reaching out to people when they are struggling. 

Through some losses and trials my family has faced in the past year, and now as I am going through cancer treatment, I have a better idea of how to answer those questions. 

“I care.”

That’s what I think the answer is and has been all along.  So simple.  Why didn’t I realize it before?

I have heard the message  “I care” over and over again in the last few months.  That message never fails to comfort, and I believe it heals.  The great thing is that there are a multitude of ways of saying it.  It can be said in many languages, and most of them don’t need words. 

These are some ways “I care” has been expressed to me  in the past few months: 


So much of it.  So many different thoughtful ways.  Snacks brought to the hospital waiting room for my family. Meals brought to my house after I was home from surgery.  Hot meals.   Frozen meals for days in the future when I might not feel like cooking for my family.  Frozen individual portions of soup for chemo days that might rob me of strength to fix a lunch for myself.  Pie.  Chocolates.  Fancy tea bags for a relaxing cup of tea.  An assortment of healthy grocery items with reminers of the importance of keeping my nutrition up. Baskets of goodies with coffee, shortbread, cocoa, etc. 

Gift Basket

  Each bite fed my spirit as well as my body.


CardsSo many cards. 

More Cards

Special Card From My Son

Handmade cards.  eCards.  Small cards.  Cards that played music. Some with carefully thought out words written inside.  Others with simple signatures. Whatever the words, they all said “I care.”  The simple act of finding a card in the mailbox was a moment of blessing to me to realize that someone had taken time to remember me and wanted me to know they were thinking of me. 

Stack of Cards


An acquaintance sent an email message telling of her experience with uterine cancer, as well as her mother’s.  She reached out to encourage me though she didn’t know me well.  An uncle and aunt both shared about the beautiful things they had experienced in their cancer struggles, giving me a something to grasp onto when things were very unclear.  Facebook messages were an unexpected source of comfort and connection, even in dark hours of the night in the hospital.  Some of the very best messages were those from friends that I have not had contact with in a long time.  Hearing from so many people and knowing they had taken the time to get back in contact with me spoke very loudly to me “I care.” 


I was touched by the number of people that took time out of their busy lives to be with me.  From the first days when we got the news of  “cancer” there were those that came to listen, to comfort, to pray.  At the hospital we were amazed at the number that were there with us during that anxious time.  At home I was encouraged by visits from those I never would have expected to see.


Those that know me know that I love flowers. 


Flowers speak a universal language.  They say “I care” when words fail us.

More Flowers


These varied widely according to the gifts of those offering.  Offers to help interpret lab reports might not be too useful coming from just anyone, but when the offers are from my friends in the medical field or my physicist uncle they are truly meaningful messages of caring.  Other offers required different talents, and I appreciated each one.  Kind friends offered a place for us to stay since my doctor is in another city three hours away.  Others have offered to transport me to appointments, help with housework, tend to the dog, etc.   Some of the offerings were financial. Gifts of cash offered up, mostly anonymously, to ease the burden of travel expenses and other costs.  Each offering was unique, but all of them made me feel cared for and remembered.


I would never have thought of some of the creative ways people have said ” I care.”   From the first news of my illness one of my friends, a single mom,  has surprised me over and over again with little gifts.  A journal to record my thoughts, a small puppy toy to keep me company, slipper socks, the list of gifts is long.  Her love language is giving, and she is constantly speaking that language to me. 


One day I arrived home from work to find a book and a pretty mug from a fellow coffee lover sitting by the back door.  My husband’s business partner gave us a book on tape to listen to while we travelled to our out-of-town appointments.  When my friend Joni learned that I would probably lose my hair she immediately took action.  I received a facebook message from her saying that she had found the cutest hat and had already ordered it and had it sent to me.  I received it a few days later.  What a clear message I heard in that surprise gift! 

 Joni's Hat

Another friend brought over a hat she had found for me. 

Kathy's Hat

My husband commented on facebook that we had finished a book I was reading to him at night.  A high school friend of his that had been with us at the hospital suggested a book for us to read, but she didn’t stop there.  She ordered us a copy and had it sent to our house.  Every night that we read a bit more of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society we are reminded that Sara cares.  Our preacher delivered books for me to read while I recovered.  He loves books, so books from him said “I care,”  loud and clear.  A coworker’s husband sent over a book about nutrition and cancer.


My aunt, a breast cancer survivor, called me often, and brought me pajamas when she was in town.  A coworker gave me a wooden cross before my surgery.   Two little Willow Tree angels with their messages of Hope and Remembrance remind me of the friends that gave them and their care for me.


Angel of Hope

Angel of Remembrance


Countless prayers have been offered up on my behalf. 


Some were in my presence, offered while holding my hand in my living room, or from a group encircling me at the front of our little church building.  Others were outside my presence. I know countless groups and individuals that are praying for me.  There are many praying that I will never know about.  Without seeing or hearing any of this I still am encouraged by the messages of caring lifted to a God that cares for me.


These are just some of the ways people have so graciously expressed a message of caring to me.  I have enjoyed reminding myself of all of these fabulous ways of saying “I care,” and how I have felt so blessed by each  them. There have been many more I have failed to mention. 

Isn’t it interesting to see the way people have used their gifts, their talents and their time to make me know that I am cared for? 

Isn’t it even more interesting to notice that none of these things required fancy words or complicated answers to deep questions? 

Thank you friends for teaching me.


  1. Posted 18 Mar ’11 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Does not suprise me that so many care for you…you are easy to love.

  2. Sara Dodd
    Posted 18 Mar ’11 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Love you, Laura! Thank YOU for your sharing your gift of writing with all of us who do, yes, care very, very much.

  3. Posted 19 Mar ’11 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for such a wonderful post. We don’t realize that sometimes it is the little things that we do/say that can brighten someones day. You are in my prayers.

    • Posted 20 Mar ’11 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      Thank you Ranee for stopping in. I appreciate your prayers.

  4. Your Aunt Janice
    Posted 19 Mar ’11 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Dear sweet Laura,
    Your mom told me of your website. I so glad she did. I am amazed at how beautifully you are able to express your thoughts and feelings. You are so often in my thoughts and prayers. I hope to
    see you in Abilene soon. I love you very much, Janice

    • Posted 26 Mar ’11 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      Thanks so much for all your support and encouragement. It means a lot to me!

  5. Posted 25 Mar ’11 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    What lovely writing. I think of you and pray for you often.


    • Posted 26 Mar ’11 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for stopping by! Would love to see you and the family!

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