If there’s anything I can do to help, just let me know

I did a google search for “things not to say to cancer patients” just to see if the same things annoying me were annoying others. There was one thing at the top of my list that managed to make it on to every list I’ve found so far. Pretty much EVERYONE has said this to me at some point, so no one should feel singled out by my irritation with this phrase.

(From this site: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/apr/18/10-things-not-say-when-ill )
“Whatever I can do to help”
Apart from anything else, it’s boring. Everybody says it, even though your assumption tends to be that people do want to help, of course. That doesn’t mean that help should not be offered. But “Can I pick the children up from school on Tuesdays?” or “Can I come round with a fish pie and a Mad Men box set?” is greatly preferable to: “Can I saddle you with the further responsibility of thinking up a task for me?” If you do happen to be on the receiving end of “whatever I can do to help”, be shameless. Delegate with steely and ruthless intent.

(From this site: http://denise4health.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/what-to-say-to-a-cancer-patient-what-not-to-say-to-a-cancer-patient-part-2/ )
And NEVER say, “call me if you need me or if I can do something for you.” 
I know people mean well when they make those statements, but no cancer patient has the time or energy to really call.  Just do something, anything, but do not make that blanket statement.  Truly it means nothing.  Plus, never put the burden on them to attend a social function, visit you, or put the responsibility of keeping your relationship alive upon them.  They do not have the energy to be the giver at this point in their life.

(From this site: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suleika-jaouad/cancer-advice_b_1205633.html )
Don’t ask, “Is there anything I can do?” unless you mean it.

If you do, then just do something! When you’re sick, asking for help is tiring — and it can make you feel guilty or pathetic.

(From this site: http://www.terminaltimes.net/2012/01/what-not-to-say-to-cancer-patient.html )
“If there’s anything I can do, just let me know.”

Sorry, that one doesn’t work. Why? Because it puts the onus back on the patient. Here’s an example we’ve experienced…“If there’s anything I can do just let me know.” “Ok, that’s great thanks.” Two weeks later we call that person, “Could you possibly babysit for us next Saturday? We haven’t had any time to ourselves for over six months now and desperately need a break.” “Oh dear, I’m so sorry, any other time would have been fine but blah blah etc…” You get the picture?

(From this site: http://wwwadventureswendy.blogspot.com/2011/02/what-not-to-say-to-cancer-patients.html )
If there’s anything I can do for you, just let me know.

Not helpful at all. This statement puts the burden of asking for help on the cancer patient. Instead, offer to do specific things…..it shows the sincerity of your willingness to help out.  Offer a drive to a treatment, a trip to the grocery store or to do a few loads of laundry. Take the kids for an afternoon or even overnight. Bring dinner over. Offer to help with the patient’s elderly parent or to pick up books or books on tape (they choose) at the library.

I couldn’t find a list that did not mention this. It’s something you should avoid saying to anyone that’s sick or going through something major.


About Kamina Kapow

I have dimples and friends

2 responses to “If there’s anything I can do to help, just let me know”

  1. Mom says :

    Kamina’s mom here.
    I will be working at Kamina & Mark’s place on Monday June 25th after Chemo if anyone wants to get their hands dirty.
    Next Saturday, Grandma, Grandpa, Mom & Dad will be there starting at about 10am. Forecast says rain but honestly, weeds come up easier if the soil is wet.
    Oh, and if you don’t like outside work, there is inside stuff I can let you do. 🙂
    The more the marrier and the fast the work gets done.
    Thanks everybody,

    Judi (Mom)


  2. Mom says :

    Correction to my previous post. By inside, I mean the garage. LIke staining or painting something.

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