New York State Funeral Directors Association

“Call me if you need anything.”

When your friend shared her diagnosis, that was all you could think to say but, of course, she’ll never call because she has cancer and she needs more than six words.

What to do? Read “Loving, Supporting, and Caring for the Cancer Patient” by Stan Goldberg, and learn what really helps.

It happens to all of us sooner or later: a friend or loved one tells you they have cancer, and you don’t really know how to act. Saying you’re sorry sounds like not enough. An offer of help seems perfunctory.

Everything feels superficial but in this book, Goldberg offers real “suggestions” and reminders for helping to easing the burden of someone who has cancer.

First of all, Goldberg says, remember that nothing is the same, patient to patient. Your friend’s journey is different than other cancer patients’ experience, so it’s best to follow his perception of it.

Don’t compare. It’s not your cancer, or anyone else’s; it’s his.

As for offers of help, don’t just offer – be specific by finding out what needs doing and asking to be assigned a task. Than ask again. And again.

Remember that being treated for cancer isn’t a battle. Don’t say your friend is “fighting cancer” because there can be a lot of unnecessary guilt for the person who feels like she didn’t fight hard enough if her disease doesn’t go into remission.

Know how to deal with pain, and understand that discomfort is sometimes worse; learn to tell the difference and deal with both.

Be realistic without being blunt; don’t talk of miracle cures or falsely buoy spirits. Listen to your friends’ perception of her diagnosis and honor any decision to stop treatment, even if that’s not what you want.

And finally, take care of yourself, and recognize your own helplessness. Know how to manage your stress and frustrations, and know that you did your best.

Also understand that there will come a day when you will recapture joy.

I once asked an auditorium full of people if any of them did not know someone with cancer. No hands were raised, which is an example of why everyone should read “Loving, Supporting, and Caring for the Cancer Patient.”

While it’s true that libraries and bookstores are filled with volumes on cancer, what sets this one apart is that author Stan Goldberg not only works with end-stage cancer patients, but he was a cancer patient himself.

That unique both-sides POV is what makes this book most helpful – that, and the fact that Goldberg leaves room for his readers to adjust their caregiving angles.

You may note that his ideas are written as “suggestions,” allowing for different situations and, indeed, different diseases. It’s nice, too, that small chapters are listed individually in the contents, which makes browsing easier.

“Loving, Supporting, and Caring for the Cancer Patient” is one of those books you hope you’ll never need, but you’ll glad to have when you do. Finding it may be proactive. Owning it is a good call. 

Terri Slichenmeyer
The Bookworm Sez book reviews