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I want to start this with a disclaimer that people who do make these comments are not necessarily malicious and probably simply do not know how to respond to such a crisis. In such cases, it can be a learning experience for all parties involved. You can let them know that it is not the appropriate thing to say and suggest better, also well-meaning alternatives.

At least it’s not cancer (or any other serious illness).

This is inappropriate because it forces a singular focus on the physical without taking into account the social, mental and spiritual context. Every person uniquely defines and adjusts to the perceived disruptions in their health. Even the act of a formal diagnosis of an illness can have far reaching consequences beyond the actual pathology.  An individual diagnosed with a serious illness but has a strong supportive group may fair better than another individual with a more manageable illness but is isolated and not confident in themselves.

It also implicitly ranks medical conditions and creates almost a competition of who has the more serious diagnoses and therefore in need of more care and support. This is not healthy behaviour and should be recognized and discouraged.

Convincing the individual to pursue alternatives.

It is fine to take about success stories of others using alternative or innovative surgeries or treatments but the line is drawn when the focus moves from informing to persuading. Healthcare decisions are difficult and involve a great deal of stress and time. Before trying to convince your loved one to try a new surgery or treatment, try to understand their struggles and how they came to their “decision”. That lavender is not going to fix my ankle, Becky.


The pain and recovery process associated with an amputation can be very hard and downright depressing. We may assume that the person may want to be alone however, often times, it is the opposite. That is the time they would need the most support and positive attention. If you can’t think of the right thing to say, simply say “I wish I had the right words, just know I care.”