The best advice I ever got was from a seasoned professor in grad school. She said when you don’t know what to say, or what to do to help a patient, “Just show up.” This seemingly simple bit of advice has been tremendously impactful in both my personal and professional life.
“Showing up” means you have put another’s needs before your own. It means you care enough to be there. It doesn’t mean you have a solution. It doesn’t mean you can make it better. But it does mean that you are there when you could be somewhere else.
If you have ever had the experience of someone close to you tell you that they have been diagnosed with cancer, it can flood you with emotion and rob you of the ability to speak. You might struggle to say the “right” thing. Unfortunately, many people then avoid the patient, because they don’t know “what to do”, leaving them feeling isolated and forgotten. Patients benefit tremendously when they know they are supported. Even if you do not know what to say, show up or make yourself available. It is okay to say “I am sorry that you are dealing with this and I am at a loss for what I can say.” Do not be afraid to speak honestly. Patients thrive on the reassurance of your support and love for them.
Just show up and talk about the things that have nothing to do with cancer.