What do you say to someone who has cancer? (Hint: say something)
I've heard from so many friends and colleagues. And I've NOT heard from some people who undoubtedly have heard the news. I definitely understand what is inhibiting them. It was only a few weeks ago when I was a person without cancer who didn't know what to say to a person who has been diagnosed.
From this side of the line, my advice is to to reach out through the least intrusive means (a postcard or an email is less intrusive than a phone call) and simply say something like: "I was sad to learn of your diagnosis, and I want you to know that I am thinking of you (and if you are a praying person, it's ok to say you are praying) and hoping for a full recovery." Keep it short, keep it simple. Just reach out and touch your friend. If you feel like making a committment, you can say: "I'm available to help, if you need it. I can drive you to treatments, or bring you some soup, run errands — just let me know what you need." But it isn't necessary. Even cancer patients know that most people have very busy lives. I personally don't hold it against anyone that they aren't volunteering to disrupt their own lives on my behalf — and I deeply appreciate the many people who HAVE volunteered their time.
Look, we KNOW what you are thinking: "There, but for the grace of God…" and we know that you can't help but think that we might be doomed. Friends, we're ALL doomed. If you are going to mourn my diagnosis, at least keep your eyes on the road, lest you be run down by a truck while contemplating my doom.