The WellSpan Spotlight

Health and wellness

Lessons from Kate and our nurse navigators: Supporting someone during a health crisis


The recent revelation by the Princess of Wales that she is undergoing treatment for cancer touched on her shock and struggle, as well as her request for privacy as she prioritizes caring for her young family during this challenging time. 

The princess, the former Kate Middleton, offered her own support to others facing health challenges, saying, "For everyone facing this disease, in whatever form, please do not lose faith or hope. You are not alone." 

How do we help others keep their faith and hope? What is the best way to support someone going through a challenging health diagnosis, so they do not feel alone? 

WellSpan's cancer nurse navigators offer these tips: 

  • Listen. Let the person know you are there if they want to talk. Some people will be open about their journey and find it helpful to talk about it.  
  • If they do not want to talk, respect that as well. The person going through a challenging health diagnosis likely will experience a variety of emotions, ranging from shock to fear to anger, and may still be processing their own emotions. 
  • It's OK if you don't know what to say. Sometimes the best thing you can say are simple statements such as, "I care about you," or "I am sorry to hear about your diagnosis." 
  • Avoid comments about the person's appearance or weight. If they look good, tell them that. 
  • Avoid discussion of friends or family members who are struggling with similar health challenges. Each person's journey is unique. 
  • Respect the person's privacy. Don't share their diagnosis with others unless given permission.
  • Rather than offering a generic, "Let me know if you need anything," offer specific practical things you can do to help, and then follow through. Offer to make a meal, take them to a treatment or doctor's visit, pick up groceries, or run errands.
  • If they are not ready for or do not want help, do not force it. Some people want to return to normalcy and independence if they are able. Respect that.
  • Talk about things other than their health. Laugh. Eat ice cream. Share stories.

We are here for our patients who are going through cancer treatment. Go here to learn more about these services, and our support groups, spiritual care, and financial help for patients.