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Good communication is about so much more than the words we say.

How we express ourselves is just as important, especially when we’re talking about something as difficult as cancer. We’ve put together some tips to help you have more fulfilling conversations with family, friends, and healthcare teams.

Talking about cancer

It’s not going to be easy. You might not be ready to talk right away. When you are, you might not know what to say—and others may not, either.

You get to decide what you say and how you say it. But remember that sharing your thoughts and feelings can help you feel closer to loved ones and get the support you need. When you’re ready to talk, we have some ideas that may help.

Jim Kelly and Dennis, both cancer survivors, explain how talking about cancer helped them cope.

“If you need that help, go get it because I guarantee you it will help you down the road.”
communication patient 1

Be open and honest

You don’t have to put on a brave face. Being honest about how you feel will get you the help you need.

Let yourself feel

It’s normal to feel angry or upset when facing cancer. Talking about these feelings may help you work through them.

Look for new forms of support

Family and friends are helpful, and so are support groups. Talking with other people living with cancer may make it easier to share your feelings and fears openly and honestly.

Remember that there’s no rush to talk

It may take a while before you feel comfortable sharing. Be patient with yourself and work with family and friends. Using some of the tips here could make talking and sharing with others easier.

Trena, a melanoma survivor, found that the people in her life were interested in learning about her experience with cancer. Talking freely helped her advocate for her needs and form deeper connections with her loved ones.

“Raise awareness by speaking freely about your experience.”
“Raise awareness by speaking freely about your experience.”

Communicating with your caregiver and family

How to help those helping you

Your loved ones are on this journey with you, but they may not know exactly what kind of support you need. Having open, honest conversations about your needs is a great way to improve your communication and relationships with your caregiver and family.

Jonah, a melanoma survivor, shares how he and his wife Kathryn learned to communicate with each other more effectively.

“This is a shared burden. If we really work together and are honest, we truly can share that burden.”
Jonah and Kathryn

Karen and her husband found it helpful to talk with support groups and other loved ones. In this letter to herself, Karen talks about the importance of connecting with a support group that felt right to her.

“Readily accept the help that neighbors and friends offer. Jot down a list of tasks that would make life easier for you. When folks offer, say ‘yes.’”
“Readily accept the help that neighbors and friends offer. Jot down a list of tasks that would make life easier for you. When folks offer, say ‘yes.’”

Communicating with your health team

It’s important to make the most of your time with your healthcare team. Talking openly about your symptoms, both physical and emotional, can help them identify the support and care you need.

AJ uses his time with his oncologist to ask questions—and lots of them.

“This is what my oncologist tells me every time I see her: ‘It’s great to see you, I feel like I’m on a job interview with you.’”

In this letter to himself, Patrick shares how he talked with his doctors.

“Learn as much as you can in order to participate with your care team… and definitely avoid ‘Dr. Google.’”
“Learn as much as you can in order to participate with your care team… and definitely avoid ‘Dr. Google.’”

Help others by sharing what’s helping you

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