Q. My co-worker told me she has cancer. I don't know what to talk about or what to say to her.

A.

Many people are not sure what to say when someone they know is diagnosed with cancer. Our work relationships are an integral part of the fabric of our lives. Many of us spend more waking hours at work than at home. Many families are scattered geographically and so for some people, the workplace is “family.” The extent of your involvement depends upon the nature of your relationship prior to the cancer diagnosis. Here are some suggestions that may help you:

  • Ask your co-worker if she wants to talk about her cancer diagnosis and treatment
  • Be willing to listen
  • Ask how you can help and be specific with ideas
  • Tell her that you care about how she is feeling
  • Keep your conversations confidential
  • Try to maintain a normal office relationship with her
  • Send a card or pay a visit if she is in the hospital
  • Offer to help her find resources

We also have a number of publications that offer additional tips:

You may also want to speak with a CancerCare oncology social worker to discuss your concerns.