"". Knowing What to Say to a Cancer Patient | Is This Mutton?

Fashion for the over 50s with books and beauty

Search This Blog

Sunday 15 October 2023

Knowing What to Say to a Cancer Patient

Spotlight on Voices of Cancer by Lynda Wolters 

Dear friends. I'm sure you're aware that October is Cancer Awareness Month.  I'm afraid to say that I  usually skip past content on cancer, thinking "there but for the grace of God....".   I am also afraid of saying the wrong thing to a cancer patient.

Lynda Wolters was the same. When her cousin had cancer, she told her aunt to tell Joni that she would give her any help she needed. But the cousin never rang, and Lynda assumed she was OK.  Her cousin recovered, but Lynda discovered she had felt very alone during her treatment because so many people stopped contacting her.

Lynda's own cancer diagnosis prompted her to apologise to Joni, and subsequently, to write the ground breaking book, Voices of Cancer, in 2019.  Today we mark its fourth anniversary.


"I don't know what to say" and "I don't know what to do" are common responses to a life-threatening diagnosis. Voices of Cancer is here to help.

Every cancer story is different, but there is one commonality: both patients and the people supporting them often struggle to properly articulate their wants and needs through particularly challenging and in many cases, uncharted territory. Lynda Wolters knows firsthand: she was diagnosed with stage 4 terminal mantle cell lymphoma in August of 2016.

Voices of Cancer offers a candid look into the world of a cancer patient, informed by Lynda’s own story and conversations had with dozens of patients weighing in on their needs, wants, and dislikes as they navigate the complex world of diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. With comprehensive and accessible insight from people who’ve been there, Voices of Cancer helps educate, dispel fears, and start positive conversations about what a cancer diagnosis truly means, while shining a light on how best to support a loved one on their own terms.

What I Learnt 

The urge to hide from cancer patients is very common. It's often very difficult for those closest to you. Even Lynda's mother found it impossible to visit her during her hospital stays. "I can’t handle seeing you hooked up to all the tubes and machines,” she told Lynda. “I know I am a coward.”

Lynda says when you get the cancer diagnosis, you'll be surprised who steps up and who steps away.

Research shows that at leas 50% of couples break up during a cancer diagnosis. "Partner abandonment" is because one partner or the other can't handle the stress, the body changes, a new inability to have children, the lack of sex and so on. 

Lynda says she had counselling to help her deal with several issues surrounding her cancer.  

The main takeout for me is Lynda's plea, as a cancer patient: 

Please don’t be afraid to “bother” me. I want to be bothered with your phone call, text, or visit. It doesn’t have to be much, just a quick touch to say, “I am here for you.” And just like the old days, you can talk to me about anything. Trust me, I would rather hear about you, your work, your life, your kids, and your puppy’s antics than I would about my sickness."

Things not to say

"You have the easy cancer" (no cancer is easy, and a person's thoughts, feelings and fears are just as real as anyone else's with a life-threatening disease). 

"You still have your hair"

"You look good, though."

"I'm sorry."

"That's life."

"Keep fighting."

"Be strong." Is there any other choice?

Tips on How to Help 

1. Find out when a patient is going to an appointment or having treatment and be there for them.

2. Set up a meal delivery chain through mutual friends.

3. Check to make sure the patient has adequate transportation to and from appointments. Most times patients don't feel up to driving or are unable to drive after receiving treatments.

4. Help to clean the house, even if that only means the bathroom and the kitchen.

5. Keep the patient's caregiver in mind. Consider taking him or her out for a coffee, or sit with the patient so that the caregiver can go for a solo walk or on an outing with friends. 

There is a lot more in the book, from the patient's perspective, and from the non-patient's. Voices of Cancer is a wonderful resource for families and friends of cancer patients,  as well as the patients themselves. 

Research and Articles 

Lynda has published the following articles: Navigating the Workplace with Chemo Brain, February 23, 2020, Elephants and Tea. and When Masks Weren’t Popular, March 24, 2020, Patient Power. She has spoken on several podcasts, been a guest on a local talk show regarding Voices of Cancer, and given interviews for other outlets and print.

Jane Brody wrote up Voices of Cancer in the New York Times, her article entitled What to Say to Someone with Cancer, on January 13, 2020, with a follow-up on January 20, 2020, entitled, When Life Throws You a Curveball, Embrace the New Normal. 

The Chinese translation rights of Voices of Cancer have been purchased by a grant to offer the book to medical students in Tawain. 

Lynda donates Voices of Cancer books and a portion of its proceeds to Epic Experience, a nonprofit camp for adult survivors and thrivers of cancer located in Colorado.

About Lynda Wolters

Lynda was born and raised in a tiny farming community of 400 in northern Idaho. She worked on the family farm, with her first job being picking rocks out of the fields and ultimately graduating up the ladder to driving a grain truck and combine during harvest. Following high school, Lynda continued her education in Las Vegas before she moved back home to Idaho to raise her three sons.  

Lynda still resides in Idaho with her husband and their peekapoo, Max.

Lynda has worked in the legal field for 30+ years and enjoys ballroom and swing dancing, horseback riding, kayaking, and river rafting. She has a heart for people and enjoys regularly volunteering. She spends the bulk of her spare time reading and writing. 

Lynda was diagnosed with terminal stage 4 Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL) in August 2016. She touts herself as being a thriving warrior of the disease.

Lynda has completed two books of nonfiction: Voices of Cancer, released in October 2019, and Voices of LGBTQ+, released in August 2020.

Over to You

It's your turn:  do you have any experiences or tips to share on being a caregiver, or cancer patient and survivor?  Do let us know in the comments.

See where I'm sharing this post, the bloggers with whom I link up. 

Social Media Links 

WEBSITE: https://www.lyndawolters.com/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lynda.wolters24 

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lyndawolters1 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lyndawolters/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lynda_Wolters 

Purchase Links


There's a round-up of book reviews on the third Friday of every month at Is This Mutton, plus the occasional author and book spotlight. Follow me on Good Reads or Twitter/x to see what I'm reading.

No comments

Post a Comment

Blog Design Created by pipdig