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Guidelines For Visiting Someone With Cancer

I often get asked for advice on what to say to a family member, friend or colleague with cancer or how to support them. One thing I've never been asked - but is just as important - is how to behave when visiting them.

I have just read David Stanley's article on '7 Rules You Should Follow When Visiting Someone With Cancer' and identified with every point made. Both he and his brother have faced cancer battles but tragically, his brother lost his fight. This means that David has been in the position of both a cancer patient and a family member of a cancer patient and has used his experience to come up with some guidelines for visiting someone with cancer. A kind of 'cancer bedside etiquette'.

His 7 rules are as follows:

  1. Be 100% sure you are healthy when you visit. This is very important due to the compromised immune system. If the patient is really poorly even a simple cold can have very severe consequences.

  2. Make contact in advance. I totally agree with this. I had a number of unannounced visitors - always at the worst time when I was feeling and looking my very worst and with very little energy.

  3. Time limit your visit. This allows the patient to invite you to stay longer if they are feeling up to it, but nobody feels awkward if they don't.

  4. Contact the caregiver about gifts. Flowers may be a no-go, particularly if they are in hospital - and they may be avoiding their previously favourite foods and toiletries due to ingredients or nausea.

  5. Avoid forced optimism. Very important! Platitudes such as 'you're going to be FINE' mean nothing when the medical professionals are unable to guarantee that and you are, quite frankly, terrified that you are going to die.

  6. Physical Contact. Ask First. Cancer can be painful and the pain can be imaginable, so don't grab off-guard and envelope them in a massive bear-hug but ask or take the lead from them.

  7. Be there now. Turn your phone off and  

To read David's article in full please visit Dad's Round Table.

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