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  • Writer's pictureJulia Heck

Say WHAT?!


I'm nervous to post this because I don't want anyone to think, "Oh god... What if I said one of these things?!", but it has to be said. PLEASE read this in my voice and know it's meant to be fun, but also informative!

Since getting diagnosed, I've had so many of my friends say they had no idea what to say, but really wanted to reach out and be there for me. My hopes for this post, are that you will focus on my inner thoughts and the alternatives more so than the original words that were said.


Had you asked me a year ago what to say to a friend who got diagnosed with cancer, I would've had NO idea. Even now, I still don't think I know what the right thing to say is, because there is no right thing, and nothing will truly make it better, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't reach out.


Whether you said the "right" thing or not, the fact that you even reached out, meant more to me than what you said.

I was thinking recently about all of the crazy things that people have said to me since I've been diagnosed. I have had some of the most amazing things said to me during this journey and things that really helped lift my sprits, but I've also been told things that weren't really what I needed to hear (lol).

I thought I would share some things that were said to me, what I thought when these things were said to me, and maybe some alternatives of what you could try next time! (side thought: wouldn't it be cool if you never had to have a conversation like this ever again?!)

I want to keep this light and laugh about these things, so please don't think that I am upset about it. If you said these things to me, you were not alone, all of these things were said a handful of times. So without further ado, in no particular order (except number one):

What not to say when you find out someone is diagnosed with cancer


Regular font - what was said to me

Italics - what I thought when I heard it

Bold - an alternative of what you could say


1. "Have they told you how long you have to live?", "What is your prognosis?"

Yikes. This one is tough--This is the TOP of what not to say.

Even if they did tell me, I wouldn't tell you because it's scary enough for me to think about alone. I wouldn't believe them and would do my damndest to beat that. If you had a crystal ball would you want to know how long you had to live? You wouldn't want to know if it was sooner than you expected. I don't care as much about how long, but rather how WELL do I live? I'm living my whole life to it's full potential and will keep having fun!

"How are you feeling about getting diagnosed?"

2. "I’m glad you caught it early!"

You actually have no idea if I caught this early or not, it's already spread to my liver. SOOOOO 🤷🏼‍♀️

"I'm so glad you found it and went to go see the doctor when you noticed it!"

3. "Are you sure it wasn't a misread by the Doctor?"

Are you fking kidding me?! Of course I don't know if it was ACTUALLY a misread, but I trust the professionals and now I just have to do what they say to do to kick cancers ass.

"I don't have an alternative for this because... this is a crazy question?"

4. "Breast cancer is the best type of cancer to have because there is so much money going into the research"

I mean yeah, I thought this too. But there is not much research going into Stage IV Breast Cancer. So it's not the best cancer to have. Any cancer fking SUCKS!

"I'm so sorry you have to go through any sort of cancer. This is so shitty."

5. "Breast cancer has a high cure rate, but it’s the most likely to come back"

This wasn't what I needed to hear. Let's get through this and beat it FIRST before I worry about it coming back

"Every day there are new treatments coming out and you have no idea what the next 6 months, year, or 5 years could bring!"

6. "This is such a blessing--I’m sure so many people have reached out, you must feel so loved!"

I swear... you did NOT actually mean to call a cancer diagnosis a blessing... did you?! I didn't really need this to realize who cared about me but... I see where you're attempting to go with it.

"What's been the best thing a loved one has told you that has made you feel better?"

7. "But you don’t look sick"

I mean I think that's a good thing?!

"You look amazing like always." (lol anyone is always welcome to make me feel even more confident 😉)

8. "My *insert family member here* had cancer and he/she died."

UHMMMM.. Okay super sad to hear that and I'm really sad, but this is not exactly making me feel better right now!

"Your story is going to be unlike anyone else's so try not to compare your diagnosis to theirs!"

9. "Did they say it was something that you’ve done wrong that caused you to get it?"

No, friend, it wasn't because I wore deodorant with aluminum or because I wore a bra with underwire. I have a gene mutation that causes me to not have a repair gene. But you keep listening to Dr. Oz and having B.O. and saggy titties.

"How can I get the genetic testing?"

10. And last, but not least--"I’m here for you"—but then never reaching out

It's amazing to have all these people that have reached out to me, and thankfully most of them check in often! But DEFFF don't try to be my friend now so you can say "I have a friend with cancer".

"I'm here for you" (And then follow up on what you say!)


You are ALL amazing and I know it can be overwhelming to know what to say when someone is going through serious trauma. I hope this post helps provide insight into the response of the cliches that are so often said when trying to "comfort" someone going through a diagnosis.

Getting diagnosed with cancer is a serious journey that has SEVERE ups and downs. Please be mindful of that and don't pry information out of those going through a cancer journey. They will open up when they're ready!

Cheers all! Stay safe!!!

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