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When a loved one is battling cancer, it can be difficult to know how to express your support and concern, especially if they don’t live close by and a letter or phone call are the only ways to keep in touch.

To help you get started, we’ve outlined some helpful tips to keep in mind when you craft your letter, e-mail, or message.

Keep their diagnosis in mind.
Though all cancer is serious, your language and the words you choose are important based on your loved one’s diagnosis. Overall, it’s best to let them guide the conversation. If they express sadness about their diagnosis, or not, it’s OK for you to be sad, but refrain from being overly positive or negative.

It’s ok to be funny.  
If you and your loved one have a very lighthearted relationship full of fun and laughter, there’s no reason to dull that energy just because of their diagnosis. A good laugh may be just what they need, so feel free to include an inside joke or two in your message, or share a funny memory the two of you share.

They aren’t your patient, so don’t treat them that way.
Your loved one has likely already spent a good deal of time at the hospital or in a doctor’s office and probably doesn’t want to discuss more medical advice with you. Even if you are a doctor or a nurse, you’re their friend or relative first and foremost, and it’s important to provide them an escape for however long you can.

Avoid these phrases.  
While it might be tempting, saying things like, “I know how you must feel,” is not always helpful. It’s also wise to avoid offering medical advice you researched on the internet. Even if you have had cancer yourself or know someone else who has, everyone’s experience is different. If you know someone else with the same type of cancer, you can ask your loved one if they would like to be put in touch. Otherwise, it’s best not to compare their experience to anyone else’s.

Printable Cards and Letter Templates