It can be difficult to figure out what to say to a friend or loved one who has cancer. Here are pieces of advice we’ve collected at Angel Foundation from the adults with cancer we serve.

  1. When a friend has cancer, it is OK to say you are thinking about them and that you care.
  2. It is OK to ask what they are doing and ask if you can help with that plan.
  3. It is OK to say you don’t know what to say.
  4. It is OK to ask if a friend with cancer can still do the things they used to. Understand they may need some flexibility and not be able to get together exactly as before, but they still like to be asked.
  5. A loved one with cancer needs love and support. They may even need advice. But know that if they have questions about various things (diet, treatment, books) or what attitudes are helpful, they will ask you. If they don’t ask, it will likely not be helpful to hear the advice.
  6. Cancer patients know that cancer touches a lot of people’s lives. Sometimes hearing about the experience of others who have had cancer can be uplifting. Other times, it may not the time to share. Hold onto those stories and be ready to share them if youare asked.
  7. Cards and letters are much-appreciated reminders that you care. If you do have a thoughtful card or gift to share at the spur of the moment, feel free to leave it by the door and send an email or voicemail that you dropped it off.
  8. Personal visits are appreciated. But when going through cancer, days can be unpredictable. If you have a chance to visit, it is helpful to call ahead of time.
  9. Having someone to laugh with is a gift, as is someone to share feelings of fear or sadness. Cancer can be so hard. Don’t expect to fix anything. It is often most helpful to have someone listen closely and laugh often.
  10. Just be there. Sometimes people think those with cancer just want to be left alone. In many ways, they want the opposite. Sometimes they just want the presence of a friend. Someone to be there who can share the pain, hand a tissue, tolerate the silence and uncertainty but be ready to laugh at the absurd.

Angel Foundation’s Facing Cancer Together program offers education and support for adults with cancer and their children. For more information, go to or call (612) 627-9000.