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Friday, January 20, 2012

I Hear You Have Cancer…So How is Your Dog?

Well-meaning friends and family often are at a loss as to what to say when they hear the words “I have cancer”.  At a time when we need them the most, they are at a loss for what they can do to help, physically and emotionally.  Face it, cancer is a show-stopper, and well-meant actions and words can be detrimental to the fragile state of the cancer patient.  The following is a guest post written with love by my friend and fellow cancer survivor, Rachel Pappas.  Rachel shares with us today some helpful hints on how to validate fears and offer support to your loved ones when they most need it.
This one’s for survivors’ friends and family …
By Rachel Pappas

If you’re a survivor, I could be singing to the choir with what’s in this article, but I want to offer you something to pass along to the people in your life—and to validate how you may think and feel.

There’s not much like a cancer diagnosis to challenge your beliefs about yourself, the world, and sometimes the people we love most. Now is when we most need a human connection; to reaffirm that life’s worth the ride; that we are worth it. That bond reaffirms we are not alone, even if our friends are not on this same ride. Oddly, this is the time that the “people connection” may lose its hold. It’s not easy to slip into your party pants when you’re feeling tired or sick. And sometimes it’s easier to make friends with a good book, or glass of wine because people disappoint us—say the wrong things, or say nothing at all.

Here’s what folks like us have said in focus groups regarding what we need, and what we don’t need, from the people we love who love us back…

• A majority of survivors identify emotional support (i.e., attempt to be understanding) as “most helpful."
• Informational support and advice is good from practitioners but not so much from family and friends.
• Assistance is much appreciated coming from anyone.
• And what so often makes the biggest difference is appraisal.

So translated into a quick and dirty “Guide for Survivors’ Loved Ones”…

Big DO NOTs:
• Minimizing the problem, forced cheerfulness, the words, “Do not worry.”
• Putting on the “Expert Hat” with comments like “This is the drug that will save your life,” or “Here’s the number for the Cancer Center you should go to.”
• And the one that hurts most … avoidance. When you slip into the shadows, what your friend or loved one hears is that life goes on without them.

• Maybe showing up with a nice, home-cooked meal or sending a card.
• Hearing out concerns and fears—the thing that most survivors say is missing. You don’t have to say you get it; just lending your ears is good medicine.
• And what just may go the furthest is praise … you find the words that best express the positive; if they’re genuine, what you will be saying is “Now I really get how important you are to me.”

Here are some interesting study findings on the human connection, sickness and health:

• The immune system's natural killer cells are negatively affected by "distress indicators"—one is lack of social support.

• People who get out more during flu season get sick less often.

• Social isolation disrupts cellular processes deep within the body, predisposing us to premature aging.

• Emotional support has the strongest associations with better adjustment to cancer.

“Loneliness isn't necessarily a result of being alone … [To feel un-alone] humans have a need to be affirmed up close and personal.”  -John Cacioppo, neuroscientist, University of Chicago; co-author of “Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection”

Rachel Pappas is the Founder of, and author of Hopping Roller Coasters, a fabulous book about a mother and daughter; mental illness; falling, getting up. And then along comes cancer. It's about loving, being loved; forgiving, being forgiven.

For another good read on what not to say to a cancer patient, please visit:
Elyn Jacobs

Elyn Jacobs is a certified cancer coach, a breast cancer survivor and the Executive Director for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation.  She empowers women to choose the path for treatment that best fits their own individual needs.  Elyn helps women to uncover the nutritional deficiencies and emotional stress patterns that may have contributed to their cancer and to support their body as it activates it own natural ability to fight the disease. She is passionate about helping others move forward into a life of health and wellbeing. To learn more about Elyn’s coaching services or to learn more about eating for life, please visit:


  1. i'm a BRCA girl - and my Mom is battling breast cancer now - so i feel ya - it's a TOUGH life but a rewarding one as well - u find you have more stregnth then u ever thought - i'm running for Susan G Komen in May and if you could possibly visit my page and search "cancer" - i could use all the support (donations and team members, my team is "Tiptoe Butterfly" it would be great if you could help or spread the word on your blog - the race for the cure is May 6th in Jersey

    best to luck to u lovey! - i know the battle way too well!

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  3. Hi Erika, thanks for stopping by....for all, please tell me what page...FB? or is this on a SGK site? Be well my friend, sorry about the BRCA and your mom, must be very difficult for you....many hugs, Elyn

  4. Excellent read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing some research on that. And he just bought me lunch because I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!
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  5. Really I got good Cancer Support Group and found more information about cancer related so that according to me this is best and big cancer related Blog and there good contain info about cancer...

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