I'm not sitting in judgment here. I have missed several opportunities in the past to speak up when people I care about have been in difficulty. It feels so hard to find the right words. Trust me, though, if you don't acknowledge the elephant at the table, it just gets bigger.
"I'm sorry" is a perfectly acceptable thing to say. So is "that really sucks."
Some of the most meaningful things people have said to me:
"This is a campaign and we're going to win it."
"If I know anyone strong enought to deal with this, it's you.""I know your treatment will be succesful. You're a tough customer."
From a breast cancer survivor: "The majority of us will live long enough to die of something else."
Some more do's and don't's:
Do offer to help - if you mean it and you can.
If you want to tell me a story about your friend/cousin/neighbour who had breast cancer, think ahead for a second. How does the story end? Unless your friend is now healthy and cancer free, I don't want to hear it.
Do ask me how I am but don't act dubious if I say that I'm fine. At that particular moment, I might be. Or I might just be trying really hard to keep it together. Either way, let me take the lead on whether or not I want to pour out my heart.
I've also noticed that there seems to be a tendancy, in my social circle anyway, to say it with wine. This meets with my unqualified approval.
A word about God:
Although I'm a committed agnostic, I'm quite happy to hear that you are including me in your prayers. I'll take all the good thoughts I can, in whatever form.
Don't, however, tell me that this is all part of God's plan for me. Because if I believed in God and thought He'd planned this for me, I'd be pretty pissed off at Him right about now.