7 Things You Should Never Say to a Caregiver
Last updated: July 2023
You mean well and genuinely feel sympathy for your friend who cares for someone with advanced breast cancer. We know you mean well, and we also understand that you know very little about what caregivers endure every single day and night.
Are friends and family members helpful to you?
Unhelpful phrases I hear as a caregiver
I'll be happy to help educate you about what caregivers face daily. These are certain phrases I've heard that aren't helpful to hear as a caregiver. These are 7 things you should never say to a caregiver of someone with advanced breast cancer.
1. "I don't know how you do it"
It's a nice sentiment, but it would help us even more if you spent time experiencing how we do it. Cancer caregiving is made up of so many moving parts, and there are only so many hours in our day.
Add to that the hours we spend at night not sleeping or getting constantly interrupted during sleep. It's better to bring out the vacuum cleaner or fold the laundry in the basket. And please don't ask what you can do to help. That puts the responsibility on us to figure it out, and we're likely to reply, "Nothing, really. I got this."
2. "I'd love to help, but..."
Seriously, in this case, it's better if you say nothing at all. I know that you think this response makes us believe you want to help, but all it tells us is that you actually don't want to.
3. "We need to get together sometime"
Like, when? I can't leave the house and I rarely have the energy to shower and dress, much less go out, even if I could. Again, it's better to say nothing, unless you schedule someone else to come over and take my place for an hour. It's much more helpful if you prepare a time to come over with a coffee for each of us.
4. "Have you tried..."
Please refrain from sharing the "quick" and "sure-fire" cures for cancer you encounter online. We have a medical team behind us, people with medical degrees and years of experience. If going gluten-free or wearing crystals worked, our team would have told us so. Billions of dollars fund cancer research and our doctors and nurses know what they're doing.
5. "It'll get better"
It's a nice thought. While many breast cancer patients do make it past the 5-mile marker that categorizes them as cancer-free,
You must know I'm not going to do that. For one thing, I'm too busy. And secondly, it'll make me feel guilty and small if I do. I don't want to burden anyone with everything I carry on my shoulders.
Instead, arrange a time with me to come over and, once you're here, look around to discover what needs to be done. Then, no matter how loudly we protest, roll up your sleeves and get to work. Making a cup of tea or coffee or pouring us a glass of wine won't hurt, either.
7. "Why don't you join a group?"
I don't like this statement. It's not as if I wouldn't like to; it's just that I'm housebound. I can't think of anyone who would commit to coming over for an hour or 2 every week so that I can leave. If it's important to you that I join a group, then volunteer to "patient-sit" for me and stick to it.
I really don't mean to sound snarky; it's just that so many of us caregivers hear these types of comments that mean well, but aren't helpful. Doing is better than saying; if you can't do it, then silence is the best option.
Advanced breast cancer is an isolating and lonely disease.