bad news

What do you say when your employee is diagnosed with cancer?

A cancer diagnosis is a physical and emotional roller-coaster – for eveyone.  We don’t get to rehearse how we think we might react or behave when someone tells us this news.  We’re thrown right in.

When I was first diagnosed well-meaning and loving friends and family said,

“You must be devastated.”

“What a nightmare.”

“I don’t know how you’re coping.”

“Get a second opinion.”

…and other various helpful or not so helpful phrases, all said with kindness and love – I’m sure.

But it wasn’t what I was feeling or thinking.

I know I cannot control how other people react, but I can give them a bit of a hint as to how I am responding to the situation, and I can try to influence their reactions towards me a little bit.

I leaned really quickly that each time someone said something like, “what a nightmare,”


I  responded with, “Well, it IS slightly less than ideal”

It took the edge off.

This was my way of influencing the direction that the conversation went in after that.

When one of my sons was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, our world looked frightening beyond belief and a bit touch-and-go for a while. When my husband was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis just 3 months after that I took a long time to recover from the shock.

I didn’t actually want any of my friends or family to ask me about any of it!  My workplace was actually a place of great safety and security at that time – I had an amazing line manager who asked me thoughtful questions and, perhaps because he didn’t know my son or husband, he focused the conversations entirely on me and how he could support me – it was such a gift.

How can you be a gift to that employee who needs their workplace to be a place of great stability right now?

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