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what to say to an acquaintance with cancer

(10 Posts)
TopHat33 Sat 02-Apr-16 22:32:55

A senior work colleague (A) has been diagnosed with late stage cancer. I was told by another senior colleague. im freelance and not had much to do with A but have met face to face several times and am essentially working for his company - it goes without saying I'm very upset to hear this news and will do all I can in terms of picking up work and making working life easier for the whole team. A has this weekend emailed me - a generic forward of some information, which I would normally just reply 'thanks!'

Should I reply with a 'sorry to hear about your illness. Let me know if there's anything I can do'? Or just my usual?

I know he wants to keep working as usual, he's someone I haven't seen face to face for a while and may or may not see in the coming weeks. But it feels odd to to acknowledge these circumstances.


TopHat33 Sat 02-Apr-16 22:34:02

Aagh. It feels odd not to acknowledge these circumstances is what I meant to post

StealthPolarBear Sat 02-Apr-16 22:35:51

Assuming you see him regilarly I'd leave it till face to face.
Not the same but when colleagues have had bereavements I've emailed them as normal but then when they've next been in made a point of going to see them

Musicaltheatremum Sat 02-Apr-16 22:43:01

If you haven't seen him for a while I would write a short note. It makes it "easier" when you next see them.

nattyknitter Sat 02-Apr-16 22:57:47

When it was me that was ill, (but not late stage or terminal and now all sorted), I deliberately told as few people as possible and actively hid it from people, because I hated it being the elephant in the room. I wanted to carry on as much as normal and really didn't want it coming up in conversation all the time. People always felt like they had to say something, or ask how I was and I hated it. It made both of us feel awkward. Plus it was exhausting and upsetting to have to keep explaining what was going on etc. I was fine just plodding on and appreciated the distraction, but would get upset when talking about it or have someone bring it up out of the blue.

I can't speak for your colleague, as everyone deals with it differently, but it might be refreshing for them to be left alone and have you carry on as normal. If you do mention it, keep it short and then move on quickly.

I found those close to me waited for me to speak about it, but those I didn't know that well would grill me for all the details down to exactly what the doctor had said etc. It was very intimate and I found it very mortifying to have strangers wanting exact descriptions of every last detail. I prefered not to speak about it, unless I wanted to.

If I were you I'd leave well alone, and then play it by ear when you see them and take your cue from them.

Fwaffy Sat 02-Apr-16 23:09:22

I agree I'd leave it for now and maybe say something if you meet face to face.

Personally I'd hate to be in that situation and have to sort of reassure everyone I had any dealings with that "no it's okay really, docs are hopeful etc etc". I'd much rather just let business be business, at least on email.

If you meet face to face in the coming weeks I'd go with a brief "I was really sorry to hear you've been going through a tough time recently. No need to give me any details but if you need anything just ask." Or something!

TopHat33 Sat 02-Apr-16 23:16:48

I think you're all right - that's my instinct - to just act as normal. I guess I just don't want A to think I haven't heard/don't care. But equally that's the least of his worries and keeping up our usual working relationships sounds sensible

Silverfoxofwarwick1953 Sat 02-Apr-16 23:18:26

What nattyknitter says.

TopHat33 Sun 03-Apr-16 01:03:04


fatmomma99 Sun 03-Apr-16 01:17:10

sorry to go against what people have been saying, and I understand why you feel as you do, but I've been in similar situations and it's horrible when people say nothing. Just a "I was so sorry to hear, and please know if there's anything I can do" would have been nice.

I didn't need dewy-eye stares or exclamations of horror.

But I did appreciate knowing I was being cut some slack when I needed it, and I appreciated knowing people cared.

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