I can't blog about this topic enough. There are so many people who unintentionally say the wrong thing to sick people. So here we go again.
Things not to say:
"You look so good!" - Um yeah. I might need to throw up pretty soon so excuse me while I rush to the bathroom. I can fix my hair and make up when I'm done.
"You need to just stop thinking about it and get busy." - Well if you can figure out a way to stop my brain from sending me down that evil health roller coaster, feel free to butt in again.
"You should try this new health supplement. It can't hurt." - Sure. I was looking for more pills to take. Let me check it against all my other meds and make sure there will be no conflicts and I'll just add it to the giant handful I take three times daily already.
"I wish I had the luxury of being sick instead of going to work every day." - I don't consider being sick a luxury. If I could go to work and have a regular life, I would be happy to.
"Illness is caused by stress. You just need to start coping better." - Let me whop you upside your head with a baseball bat for that one.
Again my all time top of the list of something to never say to someone who is sick: "My uncle's neighbor's hairdresser's dog walker's niece had what you have and had this other treatment. I can't understand why you are getting this other treatment. Of course the niece died after a few months. It was pretty ugly near the end." Gee thanks. I needed that positive reinforcement that allows me to think of death and doubt my own treatment plan.
Some good things to say:
"I don't know what to say, but I care about you."
"If you need to cry, I've got plenty of tissues."
"I'm bringing dinner Thursday. Can you eat lasagna or chicken?"
"I'm going to the store tomorrow, what can I get you?"
"You are going through so much, yet you still have such joy. How do you do that?"
Other pieces of advice I would add to these is call up someone who is sick and just talk or even see if you can stop by and see them. Maybe they would appreciate a trip out to a coffee shop or being driven to the store if they have problems getting out on their own. Or maybe an offer to come over and help with some chores particularly if you know they are going through a tough time. Offer to clean the kitchen, do laundry, etc.
Sick people are still real people. Think about what you would want someone to say to you if you were sick. Pretend someone stops by when you are in the middle of a three week long bout with the flu... what would you want someone to say to you?