Coworkers Coping with Cancer

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Coworkers Coping with Cancer

By Lisa Codianne Fowler

How (and how not) to show you care

Each year more than one million people in the United States get cancer. It touches the lives of all of us, whether directly or indirectly. We all have the best of intentions when it comes to showing we care. But sometimes we unknowingly cross boundaries.

Several members of our Grand family are currently battling this insidious disease. They have graciously offered their perspectives on the dos and don’ts of interacting with colleagues who have, are, or will be undergoing treatment.


  • Send cards or notes – thinking about you or praying for you
  • Do drop off food for the family, but don’t expect the patient to be able to stomach it!
  • Be conscious of strong aromas and fragrances
  • Managers – be compassionate and flexible with time off work as needed


  • Express pity
  • Say you know what they’re going through
  • Focus on talking about cancer – there are other things happening in their lives
  • Do offer help as needed, but don’t make them feel helpless – they are not

The American Cancer Society suggests we let the patient take the lead when it comes to conversation and ways of offering support. Showing interest and concern, expressing encouragement, laughing together… sometimes the simplest expressions of caring are the most meaningful. And sometimes just listening is the most helpful thing you can do.

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