Patients may become overwhelmed by their illnesses and the doctors, nurses and family members constantly coming in and out of their spaces. It only takes minutes to write sincere words that may calm and comfort your friend.
What to Say
Express your care and concern for your friend. Let her know you have been thinking about her. Communicate the way things have changed in your life to let the patient know how much your relationship with her is of value. For example, tell her you miss going shopping with her, gossiping at lunch or playing golf. Tell her what you have been doing while she has been sick. It may sound like she is missing out, but an illness often makes a person feel disconnected from daily life or the real world. Advise your friend that she does not have to write you back. A sick person may get inundated by flowers and notes and feel as if she needs to respond to every gesture.
What Not to Say
While many people mean well, they do not understand how some sentiments may be received. Try not to reassure a patient that everything will be fine as it may not be fine. You don’t have all of the information and anything can happen. Do not play doctor and suggest other treatments. Try not to relate his illness to others you know who recovered. For example, do not tell your friend about a person you know with the same cancer who recovered and is running a marathon that weekend. Everyone is different, and it may make him feel like you are dismissing the severity of his illness. Keep in mind that a person who is ill feels bad, often looks bad and is trying to keep his dignity. Do not address the patient in a condescending manner.
It is almost second nature to write to someone who is ill, “Let me know if I can do anything for you.” This is not the best way to address her needs. You put the work on her to ask you to do something for her. Instead, let your friend know in your note something specific you would like to do. For example, tell her you are going to stop by on Saturday and water the plants on her porch, walk her dog or gather her mail for a week. Let her know you would like to come give her a pedicure, bring a movie or watch the upcoming ballgame with her.
The overall tone of your note should be kind but not overly upbeat. Cheerleading may feel forced and fake. The patient needs to know you care about him. Treat him how you always have treated him. Keep the note's tone natural. Sincerity is key to a successful note of comfort.