What Do You Write in a Holiday Card to Someone Facing Cancer?

Roswell Park Cancer Institute's picture
Patient Access Project Coordinator
Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - 9:16am

Holiday cards are meant to bring merry greetings of cheer to friends and family, but what if someone on your list is facing this Christmas with cancer? Will the message of joy and wishes for a happy new year seem trite or even crass to a patient in treatment? A well-intentioned card could send the wrong message.

Jeanette Blake of Elma

“It’s so hard to know how a person will react,” admits Jeanette Blake of Elma, who is currently undergoing treatment at Roswell Park. “A message of ‘hang in there,’ could cause a cancer survivor to think, well they have no idea what I’m going through. Some people take it in stride; some may get very angry.” What’s her advice?

Keep it positive and encouraging. Patients have good days and bad days. And you can’t always know how a person going through cancer is feeling. “You know they’re going through hard times, but you don’t know their state of mind,” Blake says. “You could sign the card, ‘With many blessings,’ or ‘may all good things under heaven be yours.’”

Marty Finnerty of West Seneca

Marty Finnerty of West Seneca agrees that a message of genuine encouragement is most helpful to someone coping with cancer. Since beginning his treatment at Roswell Park, he understands the difficulty. “People don’t know what to say or how to talk to you,” he says. “I appreciate their encouragement and it helps me get through it.” But Finnerty also suggests that you don’t shy away from talking about their illness.

Acknowledge their situation. “Ignoring the fact that they have cancer is the wrong way to go,” he says. “I appreciate when people ask me how I’m feeling or how my treatment is going,” he says. “Openly ask somebody, ‘How’s the treatment? Where are you at with it?’ That kind of thing.”

Knowing what to say to someone with cancer, especially at the holidays, is daunting. The most important thing to say is that you care, that you’re thinking of them, and that you hope for better days for them in the coming year.

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