Cancer Etiquette

Cancer sucks.....

Cancer invaded my life many years ago. I'm not a personal victim of cancer, but I feel I've been victimized by witnessing the agony my loved ones have endured.

I personally witnessed events and statements in their lives while they were fighting the beast.

I feel compelled to share some of the common sense knowledge I've learned over the years.

Possibly by me sharing this story another cancer survivor or fighter won't have to hear or deal with uncomfortable moments or questions.

There are many people who never had to deal with cancer, to them it's just something that happens to others which is understandable.

Those people might not know what to say or do when they hear someone is struggling to save their life.

I hope this helps you learn what to say or what not to say when your encountered with an awkward situation.

This is my opinion and the responses I've heard from victims during my journey.

Together we should support each other


Think before you speak to cancer patients and their loved ones...

Don't ever, ever tell someone "You have the good cancer!" There is no such thing as a good cancer, cancer is cancer and all cancers are deadly but treatable if caught early. Early detection is of vital, importance but sometimes there are no symptoms. Either way there are No Good Cancers!

Don't be afraid to ask a cancer victim or their family member how they are feeling. How their treatments are going. Some people think they shouldn't approach the subject because they don't know if it's the right time, there is no such thing as the right time....just ask....if they don't want to discuss it they will tell you that. On the other hand, they might need to vent so ask only if you truly care and want to hear their response no matter how lengthy it might be.

Don't assume cancer is contagious and by discussing it you might catch it. That's impossible but that question has been asked, oddly enough.

Don't say "You don't look like you have cancer"! How is someone with cancer supposed to look? The monster is internally gnawing away at their organs, their hearts are heavy with sadness....that's not always possible to see. Not all cancer patients are bed-ridden waiting to die. Medical technology has come a long way in treating cancer and victims can now live a lot longer and have more productive lives.

Don't say "I'll pray for you" unless you truly intend to pray for them. Granted there are some people who keep a list of ones to pray for but I believe that most people say that because they feel it's customary. If you intend to actually pray for that person than say it, if not something such as "I'll be thinking of you", "You'll be in my thoughts" or "break a leg" will suffice.

Don't offer to chauffeur a patient to an appointment or hold someones hand during a procedure unless you intend to. Many people out of the goodness of the hearts offer assistance and don't come through when needed so please don't offer and get their hopes up unless you are able to be there.

Do call them. A phone call to say hello and share some memories or to simply talk about the weather are appreciated. Conversations don't have to revolve around cancer. Trust me, patients want to forget they have the beast sometimes and escape into your world if even for a little while.

Don't ignore them and assume by doing so there isn't an issue. Cancer isn't that easy to get rid of. Your loved one is ill and now is the time they need interaction from you. Your support is an important part of healthy healing. Without support a cancer victim might not have a purpose to fight as hard as they should.

Do suggest to stop by for a visit, bring along a delicious cake and savor the moment . Your heart will be enlightened by your meaningful visit. Your loved one will cherish the time you spent together. Even if no words are spoken your presence alone could make their day.

Do offer to cook a meal, mow the lawn, babysit the children etc..... these deeds might seem small to you but will be huge in the mind of your loved one.

Don't preach to them....if they drink, smoke, eat a pizza...don't tell them it's unhealthy, don't you think they already know that. It's their bodies to do with what they please. We all make choices in life, show them the respect by allowing them to make theirs.

Don't suggest alternative forms of treatment, healthier lifestyles, vitamins or me they have been there and heard it and possibly tried it. That's what their physician and Google is intended for.

Do remember silence is deadly and so is cancer. One we have control over and one we don't. Be the best you can be and show your support without being overly sympathetic which can actually make your loved one feel worse.

Don't forget humor is the best medicine. Laugh with them until you both can't laugh anymore and then laugh even more.

Do remember that once a patient is diagnosed their world and their loved ones world has changed. Within those few minutes during the dreaded news, they view life in a different perspective. What was significant yesterday, might not be as significant today. They are now on a mission for a cure. To beat the beast. You will pick up on their clues. They are garnishing all the strength they have for their upcoming fight. Your support and understanding is crucial at this point.

Don't ask "Are you cancer free now"? Ugh! There is no such thing as cancer free! We were all born with cancer cells in our bodies. These cells are inactive until they become active. So you get cancer when there are more factors that promote cancer growth than factors that inhibit cancer growth. It’s that simple.

Never, ever, ever use the word Prostrate for Prostate!


In consideration of those who haven't been through this battle...

I'm not judging anyone. I understand how it might be uncomfortable and you might be at a loss for words. But words aren't always needed. Actions are just as comforting. A gesture doesn't have to be grand, a simple gesture means the most.

I'm an advocate for victims of cancer and their loved ones. We all handle difficult situations in different ways. This is my way. My terminology might offend someone and for that I apologize but my personal journey has brought me to this point.

In 2002 I lost my mother to a six year battle with Colon Cancer. I fought alongside my husband during his seven year battle with Prostate Cancer until he passed on July 6, 2015. The emotional roller coaster takes it's toll at times. My heart goes out to all cancer fighters and their families.

Wishing all victims, victors and caregivers well.

To Cancer Victors...

Do be your own advocate for your health. Doctors are human and they make mistakes. No one knows your body like you.

Without thoroughly explaining all of your symptoms no matter how trivial you think they might be your physician won't be able to effectively diagnose you.

Keep in mind you made the choice to "hire" your physician for his abilities.

So, unless you feel comfortable with his performance, you are free to speak your mind until you receive the answers that you are comfortable with.

Wishing you the best of health on your journey.

American Cancer Society 100th Birthday

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month


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© 2011 Linda Bilyeu

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Comments 143 comments

Mich 5 years ago

These are all very appropriate and helpful tips! Good for you for sharing it with others. :)

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

If this hub just helps one person I'll be thankful.

Dave Ligler profile image

Dave Ligler 5 years ago

Outstanding ! Well done !! Anyone who has a loved one with Cancer should read this !

Tassie Devil profile image

Tassie Devil 5 years ago

Simply awesome! Thanks for sharing your feelings. I only have one more point to add to this list, and that is to not forget the carer/partner either. Many times in the 3 years my husband has been fighting cancer, I have been at my lowest point too. 99% of people overlooked that detail....but that 1%, that took the time to say "and how are YOU doing?" gave me the strength to continue. Sometimes little things mean a lot!

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Tassie....excellent point and thank you very much for mentioning how important the caregiver is also. I tend to forget that. I'm glad you have 1% in your life. Wishing your husband and YOU the best.

Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Great advice....and advice to remember....because sooner or later the beast will hit somebody close to my case it was my mother about 4 years, luckily she has currently won that battle.....but now we fear a new battle every time she goes to the doctor....voted up and useful.....great hub

SUE 5 years ago


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL Author


dearabbysmom profile image

dearabbysmom 5 years ago from Indiana

Very helpful hub...people usually mean well but sometimes it just comes out all wrong. Good, solid advice, thank you.

StarCreate profile image

StarCreate 5 years ago from Spain

Beautifully written sound advice from the heart. Good wishes and all strength to you and your husband.

marie  5 years ago

Very nicely put and informative

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Your comments are appreciated. Thank you dearabby, starcreate and marie! It's amazing how much positive feedback I've received.

Prell 5 years ago

My daughter was diagnosed with cancer at the new year. And SO many of our family and friends have been gracious during this time. Thank you for posting your first hand experience about a challenging subject.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Thank you for sharing Prell. Wishing your daughter and your family well during your journey

Soo Ewe Jin 5 years ago

Thank you for sharing. I am currently going through a third journey with cancer, and like you, have learnt much along the way. My wife and I wrote a little book Face to Face with Cancer and there is a chapter there called Lessons from A Caregiver which truly resonates with what you wrote here. Do check it out at Be Well. - Ewe Jin from Malaysia (

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Thank you Ewe I will check it out asap. I'm sure the knowledge that you are sharing is well appreciated. Wishing you luck with your journey.

marpauling profile image

marpauling 5 years ago

Wow great hub!I think getting into therapy would help all of us. It did me. I went when I was suffering depression.

Leighsue profile image

Leighsue 5 years ago

Very well written. Those of us who have lost a loved one to cancer know the pain.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Thank you mar and leigh....the right support is very important. Thanks for sharing!

chuckandus6 profile image

chuckandus6 5 years ago from The Country-Side

My Mom is in heaven because of cancer but she fought it the whole way and never lost a positive outlook. I remember she said she wanted to get a t-shirt that says "Cancer Sucks" I agree that cancer does indeed suck

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

I'm sorry for your loss chuck. Thank you for sharing.

Jrandol62 5 years ago

Great hub Sunshine....Wish I'd had seen it in 97. I had an old girlfriend call me while at was at Walter Reed, and I asked her to come visit me....She said, "Well, my boss says your cancer isn't that bad, so I'm not going to drive up there since you'll be back in Atlanta soon." I hung up on her and never talked to her again!....The nerve. Some people just don't have hearts...Thanks for sharing yours with us friend!! :-)

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

You either get it or you don't Jeff. Unfortunately we are in the get it category but I prefer it that way. Thank you for sharing your story, maybe someone will learn from it. :-)

fucsia profile image

fucsia 5 years ago

I like this Hub! Often the behaviors of the people close to the ill are of fear, or are too much compassionate, or superficial.

This is a special Hub with true words, of a true experience, by a true person.

And... Don't forget: humor is the best medicine!

Thanks for sharing.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Your comment is very much appreciated fucsia .... thank you!

wayseeker profile image

wayseeker 5 years ago from Colorado

Such a deadly and ugly disease. I love how this Hub helps those around the one who is ill because I know from experience how much pain the disease causes for those connected to person who actually has the cancer. I wouldn't trade places with the cancer patient for anything, but there is definitely a burden to bear for others as well. Great suggestions!

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Thank you wayseeker for sharing. You made some valid points yourself. Much appreciated.

AStanJay profile image

AStanJay 5 years ago from Long Island

Hey Mary, wow...this was powerful. Thank you for writing it. Have you been blogging here regularly?

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Hi Stan....yes I've been a regular for the past few months. Thanks for your comment. Sunshine

Recipe Gal profile image

Recipe Gal 5 years ago

Good advice. I know it can be difficult to know what to say when someone is sick, but I totally agree that saying something is much better than nothing. Even if you do end up putting your foot in your mouth I think most people appriciate the effort!

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Thank you for stopping by and sharing an excellent point!!! Something is always better than nothing.

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

This is a terrific hub. I had a friend who eventually died of cancer. During her chemo treatments, which took place in the hospital, she had hours and hours to get through; we mostly played rummy, a simple card game, to pass the time. She was a great trooper and real example of courage to us all. We were so sad to lose her. She said once, and I'll never forget this: she found out who her real friends were. She had tons of friends: only three of us ever visited her in the hospital, and only two of us, more than once.

How sad is that? She was the same person undergoing chemo as she was at the neighborhood block party. Why not visit? Cancer isn't catching. I just don't know what her other friends were thinking. I wouldn't have liked to have been abandoned like that. And it wasn't a really downer of a visit, either. We'd play cards; she had a boombox and we took turns putting in the music we liked. I had to wear a surgical mask over my face and be careful of skin contact, so that I wouldn't contaminate her with my germs when her immunities were low; other than that, it was a pretty normal visit.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Thank you for sharing paradise. Your friend was extremely blessed to have you. Abandoning a family member or a friend during times of crisis and ill health is just wrong. From experience i've witnessed it with my mom and husband. We all make choices in life...whether they are right or wrong we still must live with those decisions. Wishing you good health.

Do unto others as others do unto you.

Cagsil profile image

Cagsil 5 years ago from USA or America

Very excellently written. My journey with Cancer is one I am still living through. My sister had Breast Cancer, My father died of Cancer and My mother had Colon Cancer. My sister continues to live her life and has a couple of issues. She had one daughter at the time and the doctor told her that she would be lucky to conceive again, due to the treatment. However, her second daughter was born a few years later. She still has a lingering issue with one of her arms, which retains water from time to time, making her arm swell. My mother had 18 inches of intestines removed when doctors found she had Cancer of the Colon. The doctors told her that there is a 15% chance that it will resurface, but my mother is at an age, where she no longer care if it does or not. Nothing I do to support her is going to change her mind and this has been a fact that I've had to live with. My father died from Cancer, because, as you said doctors are human and it was a misdiagnosis that lead to his Cancer not being caught earlier than it was. Your hub will help support a lot of people who read up on Cancer. Good work.

moiragallaga profile image

moiragallaga 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

Very useful advice Sunshine, thanks for sharing this. It is such a sensitive topic and learning how to deal with a person going through such a difficult and trying period is an area fraught with "landmines." My husband and I have always wondered how do we engage a person or their family members who are going through this tough period in their lives? What is the appropriate thing to say or offer? What do we avoid doing or saying. Your hub has helped a lot in answering those questions of ours.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

I'm glad to know that this hub helped answer some questions for you moiragallaga! I hope it also helps many more people. There are times when we just don't know what to say.

GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

Great Hub! When I was undergoing chemo and someone meaning to be kind (helpful) said "be positive", I nearly threw the phone on the floor. They meant well, of course, but offering simplistic advice when the chips are down was inappropriate. It made them feel they were being close, (by giving me 'good' advice) but I knew they were far removed from what was going on for me. My emotional reserves, as well as physical, were completely drained, so it which was hard, uncomfortable, painful at times. 'Be positive' sounded like something you'd say to someone at the hairdressers who's chatting about something trivial. I did not want to have to get my head round how 'friendly' they were trying, and failing, to be.

Perhaps I needed to vent anger that moment.

Just shows how complicated it can be to know how to be close to someone who is going through the cancer therapies.

Your Hub was helpful to everyone going through, or next to, loved ones and friends who are battling cancer.

Thank you.

RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Sunshine - I am so glad you wrote this. My step dad (who raised me most of my life) passed away due to complications of lung cancer 14 years ago. Your advice is fantastic....cancer is a beast and not taking about it or negotiating with it are impossible. I applaud you for looking it in the eye, raising awareness and educating others. Bravo!

Leah Helensdottr profile image

Leah Helensdottr 5 years ago from Colorado

Sunshine, this is such a helpful hub. Those of us who know someone with cancer are often unsure of whether or how to approach them, and your guidance is great. I have a friend who survived a melanoma 35 years ago, but she's never lost the fear that cancer will return. I know it irritates her unendurably to have people tell her that she's cancer-free and is silly to worry. Thanks again for this excellent hub! Voted up.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

I can understand how your friend feels. Unless one has been there and done it they just don't know what to say. We live and learn. Thank you for your comment and sharing your story.

tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 5 years ago from North Carolina

You are such an angel Sunshine.. The older I get the more I deal with cancer. I hope your friend will be ok. I am sure this hub will reach many! Bless you for writing it.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Thanks Tammy, sorry you had to be there and do that too. It's my husband at this time for me. It's been one heck of a ride. I'm glad you and I hooked up over at you know where:)

prasad 4 years ago

thnx for information and more information about cancer risks

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Thank you for the link prasad!!

missolive profile image

missolive 4 years ago from Texas

Sunshine these are incredibly important tips. Cancer has become so prevalent today and it can be uncomfortable for family and friends to communicate. Who would think one would ever have to consider Cancer Etiquette? Thank you for providing these tips and for sharing your perspective. I wish nothing but the best for you and Dave. I know you are a fighter and your happy spirit warms me to no end. Thank you for being YOU!!! Fight on sister friend! You are an awesome advocate and supporter.

HEART ya' !!!

Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 4 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

Excellent tips. I had a good friend who I saw a lot when I was battling breast cancer, others I didn't see until I went back to work almost a year later. But, I guess everyone handles it differently.

Personally, I did find it helpful to try and be positive through all my treatments. That doesn't mean I was always positive, that is impossible.

One thing, my sister refuses to discuss it even after all this time. Every time I would bring up my cancer, she would change the subject.

I'm now a 14-year cancer survivor.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Hi Susan, Yes everyone does handle cancer differently. We all do the best we can with the knowledge we have.

Congratulations to you for being a survivor...wishing you continued success.

weezyschannel profile image

weezyschannel 4 years ago from Central USA

You hit the nail right on the head. You said it when I didn't have the guts to a long time ago. You wouldn't believe the things people say. However; in their defense from being on both sides of the equation, You don't know what to say. It's a darned if you do, darned if you don't kind of deal. I have about 3 hubs on cancer you can read here if you wish.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Thank you for your comment weezy. I will stop by to read your hubs also.

braincancersux profile image

braincancersux 4 years ago

The one comment that I have hated the most is, "God never gives you more than you can handle." Wow. What I really want is, "This blows." Those faux positive comments are the worst. And one thing I've learned is that people turn their backs because your cancer makes them uncomfortable. I have very little support from family because they can't cope with my terminal illness. It's baloney!

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

braincancersux, I understand your frustration. Wishing you a positive outcome. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

iamaudraleigh 4 years ago

Linda, I think you have found a calling in the field of psychology, coping skills, and mindfulness. You have strong passion for the subject matter you have written and it shows! You know how to talk to people and know how they tick. Also, you know how people need to be addressed when they are trying to beat the big C!

My Grandfather succumbed to lymphoma in the 1980's. It was hard for my father to see him die. People like you would have been great to have around when that was going on!

Thank you for writing this...voted up...and shared!!!

weezyschannel profile image

weezyschannel 4 years ago from Central USA

You said it all! As a cancer survivor myself, you have no clue. Everything you said is spot on. I think people don't know how to react or what to say, and I think they really are trying to help in their own way. I may add one thing to your list if you don't mind. That is asking what they ate today or did you eat? That drove me crazy!! P.S, it's okay to call but not 8 times a day. I have an article I wrote on Chronic Illness Etiquette. Explaining pretty much the same thing. Thank you for this

Made profile image

Made 4 years ago from Finland

This hub can help many people, who don't know how to act when they hear about a friend or relative that has been diagnosed with cancer. You should be proud of this hub, Linda. It's really good and helpful.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Hi Audra, That's quite a compliment and I thank you. When I feel strongly about an issue I tend to go full force supporting it and leave no stones unturned. I appreciate you!:)

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Way to go Weezy for beating the beast! Wishing you continued success with your journey! Thank you for sharing your peeves with us. I will be sure and stop by your hub.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Thank you Made. Your comment means a lot:)

Larry Wall 4 years ago

Excellent hub. My sister and sister-in-law are breast cancer survivors. My former secretary had breast cancer well over 10 years ago and is doing fine.

However, it is still a scary disease and it is one that should not be viewed as anything else. The advice you give is excellent.

I worked in a corner drug store when I was a teenager. We had a customer, whose son had bone cancer and was taking some heavy meds for that time (1960s). Every now and then the son would come with his Dad to get the meds, wearing his pajamas and robe. He would have a soft drink while his father talked to the pharmacist. I regret that I did not attempt to make conversation with him. He was several years younger and I was only 16 and not very good at beginning conversations, but I wished I had, just so he would had known that I saw him as a person and not just as someone with a horrible disease.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Larry, If this boy was brave enough to come into a drug store wearing his pajamas and robe to sip a soda I'm sure he knew he was more than just a disease. There is no need to regret not approaching him. He was younger and probably would have felt comfortable speaking. Just feeling someone's caring presence is more important than words at times. I'm sure he felt your presence. I did just from your story. Thank you for sharing. I hope it helps someone else in that position.

somethgblue profile image

somethgblue 4 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

Good article . . . 'These cells are inactive until they become active' which means they become active for a reason. I have always found it interesting that the only person in our family that could afford the type of cancer that is treatable is the only person that has ever gotten it. Makes one wonder . . . after all we all eat the same food have the same lifestyle and yet the wealthy member gets an incurable disease that eats up his life and money . . . Hmmmm!

I wrote and article called Get Off Your Knees that has some interesting facts about cancer you might want to take a look at . . . or not.

I personally think it is a scam and that we have had a cure for it for a very long time. I was diagnosed with melanoma four years ago but refuse to treat it and it hasn't spread or affected my life in any way, shape or form.

I think the treatment is the disease and refuse to participate, my family thinks I'm crazy but . . . hey it may very well be a state of mind.

To claim we don't have the cure is total nonsense in my opinion. Ever wonder why the country with the greatest level of living conditions spends more money on the Wealth Care system than any other industry . . . kind of hard to make money on a light bulb that last forever.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Hi somethblue, Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for your comment. I also believe there is a cure, but we will never know because the pharmaceutical industry and oncologists would go bankrupt. Cancer care treatment is VERY expensive. Millions of people are in debt due to medical expenses. They will never get out of that debt. Let's hope someone does finally does have a heart and comes forward with the cure.

Also, could you please post a link to your hub here...others might find it useful also. Thank you!

somethgblue profile image

somethgblue 4 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

Yes, Cancer Sucks, no doubt about it however like a lot of things sometimes the knowledge and information that is with held from us can make all the difference in how we perceive subject. I personally refuse to play the Cancer Game of unending treatment even if it leads to my death.

Here is a link to the story I wrote on what is being with held from the American Public . . . . . Knowledge Is Power and those that don't have it usually end up paying for it!

It is called Get Off Your Knees . . . .

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

somethgblue, I agree in so many ways!! Thank you for sharing your link. Your article will be appreciated by many. In one way or another we could all relate. I appreciate you!!

Larry Wall 4 years ago

I will read your hub, but I do not think any cures are being withheld. Sometimes a cure for one person could be fatal to another. If that is the case, is it really a cure if you do not know how the person will react.

I hate to disagree, but I do not think there are any secret cures being withheld. There may be some cures that are still in the testing stage. If pharmaceutical companies wanted to make money by keeping the cures secret, why would they invest in finding the cures. If independent scientist find the cures, they are smart enough to protect their patents and license them to companies that would actually produce the medication.

It use to be argued that tire makers did not make better tires because they would not sell as many. As technology improved, tires improved.

I have had numerous relatives, aunts, uncles and others die from cancer. As you know there never will be one single cure because cancer is not just one disease. It is a group of diseases and progress has been made. Be grateful. My mother died of ALS. There is not only any cure, there is no treatment. You just make the patient as comfortable as possible and watch them die.

You may disagree with me and that is your right.

I have known people who declined cancer treatments. That is their right. I do not know what I would do if I had the disease. I will make that decision if I ever am stricken with it and the decision will be based on the type of cancer, my overall health, my age, the prognosis and other similar factors.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

I understand your point of view Larry and I appreciate you sharing it with us. We are all entitled to our opinions depending on our circumstances and what we witness.

I also had family members who declined treatment. It was their choice and they are missed. I have a strong feeling what I would do if I was in the position to decide.

Thank you again for your thoughts.

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

This will without a doubt benefit many readers.

A great hub ;take care and I wish you a wonderful weekend.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

I sure hope so Eddy. Have a wonderful weekend!

MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 4 years ago from South Africa

I need to know this now - what to do and not to do. Thank you, Linda, for all the tips.

alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

It's frightening how this disease has touched more and more people in my life. Sometimes I just don't know what to do or say so thank you for the etiquette tips. Voting this Up and Useful.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Most of us will be touched by cancer in some way throughout our lives and until we are - we need help on how to help the person who has it. I lost both grandmothers to it, a friend at the age of 32 and another friend last year who I am so grateful to have seen the week before she died and remember now how much we laughed together. One of the most important thing you mention here is to keep in touch with people with cancer - always time well spent. Excellent hub, voted up, shared, etc,etc

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Hi Martie, I wish your friend good luck. He's lucky to have you in his life during his journey. Always in my thoughts.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

I agree alocsin. Every day many people receive the dreaded cancer diagnosis and we aren't sure what to say or do. I hope these tips help them. Thank you for your thoughts.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

I'm sorry for your losses Julie. Your comment will be appreciated by many. Thank you for sharing.

kelleyward 4 years ago

What an important hub Sunshine! I haven't had cancer but I have diabetes and many of these things ring true with that disease. Telling people what they shouldn't have done, how to manage their disease, etc is not helpful for the one who has cancer. It's also important to treat them like the human being they are and offer help, meals, prayers, and continued friendship. One of my friends had melanoma and for 1 year she had to undergo extreme treatment where she couldn't work and needed help with childcare, meals, trips to the cancer treatment center. She amazed me with her positive attitude. I tried to help her as much as I could but I also wanted her to know she could ask me anything and talk to me about anything. She's thriving today but still has to deal with the thought of cancer in the back of her mind. I'll send this hub to her. Voted up and Shared! Kelley

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Hi Kelley, I only recently learned more about Diabetes and I feel for you. I've seen so many patients receiving daily antibiotics from IV's because they had a small cut on their toes. I had no idea the feet had to be protected due to sensitivity. That's just one issue. I wish you luck and good health. Thank you for sharing!

healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

This was an amazing hub and I love the way you tell it like it is. When I went through ovarian cancer I found hugs,humor, and people telling me they were thinking of me so helpful. I didn't find it helpful when people asked if the chemo worked, what my prognosis was, or told me I was brave. I was so glad to have my husband and kids there because they really knew what I was going through and knew how to be there for me in exactly the way I needed.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Hi Healthylife, Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I wish you the best of health.

34th Bomb Group profile image

34th Bomb Group 4 years ago from Western New York State

Thank you, Sunshine. A fellow Hubber referred me to this article and I am very grateful he did!

My son was recently diagnosed with Stage III Testis cancer. The offending organ was removed and it doesn't appear that it has metastasized. He will begin chemotherapy in a week or two.

Of course I'm scared to death. He's only 22 and my only child. But he's a tough kid and I'm planning on him mucking his way through this. At this point there is NO other option than his survival. Should that change in future, we'll deal with it then. I'm not saying we're ostriches, but I refuse to fall immediately into the "terminal" category. That would, I think, be giving up before he starts.

The Doctors are very optimistic and I take my lead from them. We're lucky in that we have the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo. People from all over the world come here to be treated.

I'm trying to not treat him any differently - after the first half hour after he told me and I sobbed in his arms. It hit me at that point that I'm the Mom and I should be comforting him. I'm following his lead, which is sometimes frustrating, but we WILL get through this.

Thank you for some much needed advice!

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Hi 34th, First off I'm sorry for the journey you and your son are on. I wish you the best outcome possible. A friend of mine also has a son who was DX'ed and treated for Testis Cancer at a young age. He's doing just fine now and has a couple of children also. She would be more than happy to communicate with you for support. I wrote a hub about her ... Gangsta Granny. Thank you for sharing with us. Please keep in touch.

34th Bomb Group profile image

34th Bomb Group 4 years ago from Western New York State

Thanks so much!

This was "sperm bank" week. Onward & upward from here.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Sending you positive thoughts 34th! :)

34th Bomb Group profile image

34th Bomb Group 4 years ago from Western New York State

:-) !!

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

Cancer is one of the few things in life I hate. And I don't say that lightly. People need to realize that just because someone has cancer doesn't mean they've stopped living. We need to provide understanding, compassion, support, and most importantly love. That's the greatest thing you can share with someone fighting cancer. Awesome hub!

Ruchi Urvashi profile image

Ruchi Urvashi 4 years ago from Singapore

Yes, cancer is difficult to deal with. I have not yet encountered cancer in my personal life or my family. However, it is still good to read about it.

ThoughtSandwiches profile image

ThoughtSandwiches 4 years ago from Reno, Nevada


I learned a lot of these when I was in the trenches with my mom. You speak very eloquently to all of them and could have used the primer sheet...there were times when I was just thrashing about blindly. Unfortunately, cancer is still out there and I'm more than sure this will help others!



Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Thank you Alecia, Ruchi and Thomas for sharing your thoughts with us. I thought this article would come in handy for those people who were unaware of the correct things to say or do. At least I hope they benefit from this.

Julie DeNeen profile image

Julie DeNeen 4 years ago from Clinton CT

Excellent article. Having gone through this with my father-in-law, it is spot on!

KDuBarry03 4 years ago

Cancer may be inevitable for now, but that doesn't change the fact we can help as many people as possible! I have a family line, from both sides of my parents, who have been afflicted with different types of cancer. One of the best things to do, via my experience, is to treat them like another person and have as many laughs and fun memories as possible :)

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Hi Julie, Thanks for sharing.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Excellent points Keith. I appreciate you stopping by and I also with you good luck!

Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)


This article was very difficult for me to read. It caused me to recall the cruel and thoughtless way in which several people treated my mother after she was diagnosed with cancer.

Suffering from cancer was bad enough, but for my mother to be treated as though she had the plague, for people to not want to be around her was just plain wrong!

midget38 profile image

midget38 4 years ago from Singapore

Excellent read, Linda. I like how you wove the tact factor into this. Certain things should really not be said! Cancer is everyone's enemy and no one should have to deal with it. Thanks for the wisdom.

TToombs08 profile image

TToombs08 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

Very helpful stuff, Sunshine. I never know what to say to someone that has cancer or is terminal. And that makes me very uncomfortable. This will at least give me a clue at what I can do the next time. Thank you. Voted up and shared everywhere...and chimed. :)

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

Here I am, johnny-come-lately again, but this message will never grow old. You've written a hub that everyone should read...whether people are tactful or not, thoughtful or not, this is great information. People are often uncomfortable or unsure of what to say and this is a great guide. I, like you, do not have cancer but it has taken and touched so many close to me.

Voted this all the way across except funny, and pinned and sharing with my followers.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Linda, Pinned, tweeted and posted on Facebook - great info and advice. Oh, also voted up and shared :o)

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Daisy, I agree how your mother was treated is plain wrong. Hopefully they've learned from their mistakes.

Michelle, Thank you for your comment. I appreciate it.

Terrye, There was a time when I was clueless as to what to say. I'm not anymore. Experiene teaches us. Hey, thanks for the chime!

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Hi Mary and Julie, Thank you for your support in helping spread the Cancer Etiquette that we could all learn from. I appreciate you both!

mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

I don't think there are many people whose lives have not been touched in some way by this horrible disease. I didn't realize there were different colored bracelets for different types of cancer. One of my granddaughters who is 21 just had a bone marrow biopsy done because her white cell count was extremely low. Thanks goodness it was not leukemia as we feared. She had had a bad bad viral infection and that seems to be the reason for the low count. She is fine now.

Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK

This is such an inspiring and important hub. I wish everyone would read it, including Doctors. The simple etiquette of communication and care seems to escape many. As always you say it like it is, simple, direct, true and powerful. You are one in a million, Linda.

remaniki profile image

remaniki 4 years ago from Chennai, India

Hi Linda,

I can't thank you enough for this great hub, so informative, most of the things being new to me because I have not come across or cared for a cancer patient in the family or friends' circle. You have explained the cancer etiquette in a clear and understandable manner. Thank you very much.

Cheers, Rema.

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

After losing my aunt to cancer it was such a shock, even though I knew her mother had it, it still seemed so unfair, and I think thats one of the main things about it, it isn't picky about who it chooses. a very good friend of my son had it last year, so this is such an important hub, really informative and useful, nell

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Hi Mary, I'm glad to hear that your granddaughter is doing well. Thank you for sharing her story, someone else could benefit from it.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Thanks Docmo. Your compliment and comment is appreciated. I truly hope more people do read this and they benefit from cancer etiquttes words of wisdom is one way or another.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Hi Rema, Thank you for stopping by for a lesson that I hope you will never need to know :)

Hi Nell, I appreciate your comment and support. Wishing your son's friend good luck!

K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California

I agree,...cancer sucks! I really appreciate your ribbon color chart, it is good to know what people are saying to us when they wear each color of ribbon. This is quite a tribute to many suffering hearts. I applaud you Linda.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)


I came back to thank you again for publishing this article. Thanks, too, for all the anti-cancer advocacy work you do.

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Linda, this is so amazing and beautiful! Voted up across the board. Unfortunately, I have 3 close friends that are watching their spouses suffer with cancer, and I have at times struggled with what to say and do. Just letting them know that I am thinking about them, and spending time with them when they are up to it seems to do the trick. One friend didn't like me bringing flowers when I stopped by to visit. Such a difficult thing to witness.

Big kudos - shared! Best, Steph

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

India ~ Daisy ~ Stephanie ... Thank you all for your comments and thoughts. Yes, cancer does suck. During this month of October for breast cancer awareness we will continue to remind it even more.

34th Bomb Group profile image

34th Bomb Group 4 years ago from Western New York State

I'm going to check out a web site called "stupid cancer," or something similar. My son received a gift of a t-shirt from it. I think. Better for the little ones although I firmly agree: CANCER SUCKS!!

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Hi 34th! I heard about that site, but I've never visited. Thanks for sharing! I hope your son is doing well, as well as could be expected.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

We have lost several dear friends to cancer and other dear friends have had to...and are still battling it. Thus we have have been impacted by this monster many times. Very sorry to hear that you lost your mother to colon cancer. Hopefully your husband will fare better...especially with you at his side. Your words should help many people as they wonder what to do or say with regard to the people in their lives who will be affected by this disease process. Up and useful votes + definitely sharing!

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

A good article, and good for breast cancer awareness month. Thanks for sharing, I vote very helpful on this one!

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Hi Peggy and Rebecca, Thank you both for sharing your thoughts.

heluvsu2 4 years ago

Thank you all for these truths. I need input on a couple of things: What is the proper way for my spouse to participate in fund-raisers held by other organizations? Our kids sports teams want to fundraise on our behalf, and one of our friends made ribbons and pins to sell at these events. They want my spouse to be one of the people who sells these items. My spouse wants to watch the sporting event as a family. Is this inappropriate or being unappreciative. The other question is about the timing and need basis of having a fundraiser. Is is proper to begin fundraising when there are no additional costs being incurred as of yet.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Heluvsu2, Follow your hearts and go with what feels right. It's perfectly fine to simply say no. If your friend is a true friend they should understand. If no additional costs have incurred yet, I would hold off on the fundraiser. That's my opinion. You might not need the funds and that could cause issues. A friend offered to begin a fundraiser for my husband and I, we are doing OK right now so I have the fundraiser on hold. I hope I helped and didn't confuse.

Vellur profile image

Vellur 3 years ago from Dubai

A very important hub, full of good will and kindness. We must never hurt a person who is already been hurting so much from cancer. Voted up and shared across. Great hub.

midget38 profile image

midget38 3 years ago from Singapore

Coming in again to say that I agree with everything about Cancer ettiquette here. I am sharing this hub.

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 3 years ago from North Carolina

Absolutely beautiful hub, Linda. I'm so glad you wrote this very important article about cancer etiquette. God bless.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 3 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Vellur ~ Michelle ~ Denise ... Thank you for your continued support:)

earner profile image

earner 3 years ago from United Kingdom

A great hub. It's a tricky time with everybody skirting round the subject and going through many emotions. Often the cancer sufferer is in denial themselves, making it impossible for family and friends to have the essential conversations that are needed.

One of the tricky things is not knowing how long you've got - even 24 hours from death Doctors are often not saying "when" or "how long" .... and, often, the patient believes they'll get through this, that they aren't really dying ....

A sad time for everybody.

Voted up.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 3 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Hi earner, Yes it's a sad time for everyone. Doctors want to continue to give hope. They want to win the battle too. Well, most doctors. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Vickiw 3 years ago

Sunshine 625, good advice in this Hub, and I see it was written long before I came on the scene! A lot of this advice could be applied to people who have suffered a bereavement too. Glad you wrote this - I'm sure it has been of help to many people.

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

I sure could have used your insightful information when my son was diagnosed with testicular cancer. How I needed someone like you (better yet, you personally,) when cancer claimed his life.

Your compassion for others spills through the words you select. Dear Sunshine, may you be surrounded with blessings galore.

Love you,


Carola Finch profile image

Carola Finch 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I am sorry you had to go through this. I am a breast cancer survivor myself, and you make some good points. However, on the technical side, I suggest that you take a second look at the flow of the article at the end. First you informing readers who meed to be educated about how to treat people with cancer, and then you switch after "Cancer Etiquette conclusion" (which is not a conclusion, to be really nitpicky) to talking to cancer patients themselves. I suggest you either cut out the last bit or rewrite it so that there is a clear transition to a totally different type of reader (cancer patients). You could also do it as a sidebar with "For Cancer Patients" or something like that - sorry I am not more creative this early in the morning. I feel it is best (and many editors insist on this) to target one type of reader such people who need information about cancer patients so there is no jolting change in perspective or confusion. Hope that is helpful. Otherwise, good job.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 3 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Hi Vicki, Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Hi Audrey, Unfortunately I wasn't there for you with your loss, but I'm here now! :)

Hi Carola, Thanks for the tip! Wishing you continued good health.

Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 3 years ago from Brownsville,TX

Hi Linda.. Cancer is so awful. I lost my best friend a couple of months ago.. it was terrible ... I lost her to cancer. so many friends and family are dieing or have died. from cancer.. It is a terrible .. God b;es you for writing this .. it needs to e said


Carola Finch profile image

Carola Finch 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Thanks for this hub. I am recovering from breast cancer. My two pet peeves are people being surprised that I don't look like I am on death's door and negative commenting on my eating habits, which I feel are nobody's business. I am glad to hear from people that so-and-so recovered by drinking veggie juice, but that doesn't mean it will work for me. Yech! chemo was less nauseating.

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

Good advice, especially on the doctor portion -- and not just for those with cancer. You are a customer and must expect excellent customer service from your medical team. If you are not in a position -- physically or emotionally -- to be your own health advocate, make absolute sure that you have family members/friends who can stand in your place and be a strong patient advocate in partnering with the medical team. Your health, your life, your peace of mind may depend on this vital partnership. It's no time to settle for answers you don't understand. I advocate respect towards medical staff, of course, but also know that during any health crisis it's no time to put courtesy before the need for reliable professional judgment. A great medical team is so important.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 3 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

I'm sorry for your loss Deborah. Cancer sucks.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 3 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Thank you for sharing your journey and pet peeves Carola. Wishing you good health.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 3 years ago from Orlando, FL Author

Amen Flourish. Amen. I've witnessed cancer patients who were alone and had no support team, it made my heart ache for them. I always reach out when I sense loneliness in another patient, or person in general. I appreciate your comment.

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 23 months ago from Nashville Tn.

I'm back for another visit dear Linda. You already know about my experience with this terrible disease, the loss of Todd, and the impact on our family. My grandchildren are still paying the price for losing their father.

This is the best article on Cancer Etiquette! It's all true! I'll continue to share this hub everywhere I can.



Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 23 months ago from Orlando, FL Author

My heart aches for you Audrey. You are quite an amazing survivor while living with the loss of your son. There is no greater pain. My husband continues to battle the beast and I continue to learn more etiquette along the way.

Availiasvision profile image

Availiasvision 23 months ago from California

You have some really great ideas on how people can encourage and relate to someone going through battling that nasty disease. I think a lot of people don't know how to relate and how to help without hurting. If you haven't been through it, you just don't understand. Thank you for helping the rest of us understand.

lovedoctor926 23 months ago

Useful information. Good tips and advice. Thank you. I am sending positive thoughts your way.

heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 23 months ago from Chicago Area

It seems like every year, I encounter a friend or acquaintance who's battling cancer. A friend of ours is going through chemo this week.

And our animal family members are not immune either! I've had 4 dogs (their breed is prone to it) who have had some form of cancer and it never ends well, of course. Be kind and caring with friends and family who are dealing with pet cancers, too.

Thanks for sharing these awesome tips! Voted up and sharing!

Vellur profile image

Vellur 23 months ago from Dubai

Came back to read again, it is so important not to hurt those who are already hurting so badly.

mary615 profile image

mary615 23 months ago from Florida

There are so few people who have not been touched by this horrible disease! You are a very courageous lady, and I'm sure your Hubby is grateful for your love and care. It can't be easy for either of you.

Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 16 months ago from South Carolina

Dear Linda,

Thanks for sharing these practical lessons that you learned from personal experience in caring for your mom and Dave.

Too often, friends and loved ones stay away because they don't know what to say or how to act, or because they feel they can't "deal with" watching someone they love go through the painful and debilitating treatments and also the pain from the cancer itself.

The more they know about what to say, and how to act, the more likely they'll overcome their own insecurities and fears and be able to support the patient.

You are a wonderful advocate for cancer patients and I'm glad to see you included a link to your book, "Letter to Cancer: Lessons Learned". I gave it a 5 star review and recommend it to anyone who has cancer or is taking care of a cancer patient.

Sending Blessings and Love,


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 16 months ago from Orlando, FL Author

Thank you so much, Gail. Your support is appreciated. I keep your sympathy card on my desk, the words are a gift when I need them the most. XO

Sherry Hewins profile image

Sherry Hewins 16 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

Sunshine625 - I'm sorry to hear that you have so recently lost your husband to cancer. Thanks for reaching out to us during this tough time.

It is so hard for people to know what to say, a lot of them just distance themselves from the situation. Thanks for giving us a few clues.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 16 months ago from Orlando, FL Author

Hi Sherry, Thank you. Just be yourself is the best advice I could give. Some words are better than none. :)

somethgblue profile image

somethgblue 16 months ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

Never one to shy away from voicing my unique perspective, I was told that sharing with my family my view that my Father, as he was in life was blazing a trail (always breaking fresh snow on our X-cross country ski trips) and still being a leader by going first to the next dimension, so that he would be there for us when it was our turn.

My stoic resolve and lack of outward emotions helped other family members deal with their overwhelming grief. My Father taught me to be strong on the outside so that others could rally around the calm feelings in a stormy sea of moving emotions and gain strength from it, it seemed to work and I was told it helped.

Often a different perspective can put a difficult situation into a new light and reveal any love that might get buried by sorrow.

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