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Author gives dos and don''ts of talking to someone with cancer

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

If someone you know has been diagnosed with breast cancer, treated for the disease or given a mastectomy and breast reconstruction for it, what do you say to them when you visit them in recovery?

Author Bruce Feiler addressed this very topic in a recent round of articles and interviews released in the wake of the new book, The Council of Dads: A Story of Family, Friendship and Learning How to Live.

Feiler was diagnosed with bone cancer several years ago, and, according to his official website, this latest book recounts his attempts to ask friends and relatives to be there for his daughters if he ever isn't.

The father of two wrote in the New York Times that certain rules apply when talking to a cancer patient. These included avoiding pleasantries and cliches, staying away from the phrase "you look great," hitting non-cancer-related topics regularly, not infantilizing them and not overstaying one's welcome in the hospital room.

Likewise, Feiler told NPR's Neal Conan that, even with good intentions, telling a patient that they look wonderful when they are bald and catheterized does not make them feel better. He suggested that visitors say "I love you," give a little gossip about the outside world and then hit the road.

Feiler B. 'You Look Great' and Other Lies. The New York Times. June 10, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/fashion/what-to-say-to-someone-whos-sick-this-life.html?_r=1 Accessed June 15, 2011.

About Bruce. BruceFeiler.com. 2011. http://brucefeiler.com/about/about-bruce/ Accessed June 15, 2011.

What not to say to someone who's sick. NPR. June 14, 2011. http://www.npr.org/2011/06/14/137176802/what-not-to-say-to-someone-whos-sick Accessed June 15, 2011.

Extract: If someone you know has been diagnosed with breast cancer, treated for the disease or given a mastectomy and breast reconstruction for it, what do you say to them when you visit them in recovery?

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