Deborah Orr, who went through breast cancer treatment last year, said many find it difficult to know what to say when a friend is diagnosed with some grievous illness, but she has what she thinks may be useful advice.
"At the top of the list, expressions of pity are particularly unwelcome, as in 'I feel so sorry for you,' with all its implications of being a hapless victim," Orr told the Daily Telegraph. "'I do so wish you didn't have to go through this ghastly time,' is much preferable."
Orr pointed out that offers of practical support should be specific.
For example, asking "What can I do to help?" saddles the patient with the responsibility of coming up with an appropriate task, which may of may not be needed.
"It's much better," Orr explained, "to ask questions such as 'Can I pick up the children from school on Thursday?'"
In a similar vein, well-meaning friends can often say, "I really want to see you," which is very annoying because it leads to negotiations about where and when. Again, Orr said it is better to be specific, and ask: "Can I drop in to see you after work tomorrow evening?"
In any event, Orr advised to avoid statements such as: "If anyone can beat this, it is you"; "You are looking well/awful"; or "Your worries are unfounded."