I do a lot of comics that explore what not to say to someone with cancer, but noticed that I'm a little thinner on what would be better alternatives to all the approaches I criticize. Since starting Cancer Owl, I've had readers who have not had to deal with cancer share the dilemma they often face when a person they know or love is diagnosed. Many of these people are truly upset for their loved ones and want to do...something, but are afraid to do it wrong.
And while myself and my cancer peeps have gotten pretty good at telling bystanders how they're screwing up, we should also be honest: we don't always know what we want from others. I know I didn't always know. No one is really prepared to have cancer, and it's just a mystifying and confusing thing to go through.
As a therapist, I recommend simple connection. A hug, a smile, or sometimes just sitting and being a person. And grace...lots and lots of grace. Understand that we're all just scrambling to figure life out, and there will be many times we'll get it wrong. Screw-ups are inevitable...2nd chances to connect with our loved ones are not.
One way or another, we all leave this earth eventually, and today is all we're guaranteed.