Acquaintance/teammate has leukemia -- what's the appropriate response?

I’m the team captain of a recreational adult flag football team, and one of my players told me that he was diagnosed with a curable form of leukemia and won’t be able to play this spring. He’s a good guy, but I don’t know him outside of flag football – what’s the most appropriate way to respond, and should I offer to help with anything?

My instinct is just to say “I’m very sorry to hear about the cancer, but I’m very glad it’s curable, and I wish you and your family the best”, but I also feel like I should perhaps offer to help with any little errands he might need around town. Part of me worries that this kind of offer is self-serving, because he’ll undoubtedly have close friends and family helping rather than a friendly acquaintance.

Also, I assume he’ll be in the hospital at some point, and I think he might appreciate a visit from me and the rest of the team, or perhaps just flowers. Is it appropriate to ask “when will you be in the hospital, and what hospital?”?

What do you think?

I’d just add “and when you’re ready, you’ll be welcome back on the team. We’ll be waiting”

If you really want to make the offer, go ahead. If he doesn’t need it, the thought is there and appreciated, and depending on his situation, there might be something down the line that could use an extra pair of hands for an hour. Since I have a truck, no kids, and a job that allows me a little flexibility, I’ve helped out people who weren’t terribly close in a pinch.

Don’t make offers you aren’t prepared to carry through. You don’t have to offer to help if you really don’t want to. I’d say something along the lines of, “I’m so sorry to hear that. Cancer is an asshole! Good luck with your treatment, we can’t wait to see you back on the field.”

I wouldn’t say anything about the flowers. If you can get his wife’s phone number or email address (or a close friend’s, if he isn’t married), get in touch with that person and ask when would be the time to send him flowers.

Thanks for the feedback, everyone!

Does he live close?

When my brother in law had cancer, people who were physically close were very useful - someone to let the dog out or take the dog for a walk sorts of things.

Another thing to ask, he won’t be ILL all the time. If you have after game get togethers, make sure he is invited. He’ll get lonely. Some people will avoid him like its catching. A message that he is still part of the team even if he can’t play this year is nice.

But don’t offer if you can’t help. People do offer, but they don’t know what needs to be done. We needed the lawn mowed by someone who didn’t have an hour plus round trip, the walk shoveled (we hired those things and a friend walked the dog).

Continue to involve him in activities he can participate in, particularly if it was something you did as a team before. He may not be able to (or want to) participate in much but cancer can be a very lonely disease when social opportunities are lost.

Something like:
“Hey, Jim. We’d be happy to see you at our game on Saturday at 3pm at Jacob’s Park. Afterward the team is going over to Phil’s house for beers and a barbecue. Join us if you can!”

And rather than a general “let me know if there is anything I can do” it is better to offer something specific with an offer of help. Offer to shovel a walk of snow, provide transportation for grocery shopping, or assist with running errands. Whatever you can definitely commit to.

One thing you could do is to put down on your calendar a reminder to follow up later. Lots of people offer at the beginning, but then help often dries up later.

This is what I was going to say. It’s better to come up with something specific you can do instead of inviting him to think of something. Other than that I think you have the right idea- be sympathetic and welcoming.

He may not know that yet, and anyway if he’s in the hospital and going through chemo, that kind of long-term planning can be tough. I’d stay in touch with his family and ask them later.

He asked to stay on the team email list (an easy request), so he’ll have the chance to come to any games he’d like. I don’t know any of his family or close friends, so unless I ask him, I don’t think I’ll have any way to know when/where to visit or send flowers. For know, I’m just sticking with sympathy and welcoming.

Cancer treatment can be rugged, and even when he is home he may not feel up to driving himself around to non-essential venues.

So one specific (and team-related) thing you (and the rest of his teammates) could do would be to offer to drive him to and from any games or other team events he’d like to attend.

You could also take it in turns to phone or e-mail after each game to keep him up-to-date about team matters, and let him know that you are thinking of him.


And this.


“Shit that sucks”, and if you aren’t already registered for donation, register. You can register at your nearest blood bank; they’ll take a tiny sample of your blood for typing and ask questions to determine which of the two types of donation you’re eligible for.

Elegibility for these types of donation is different from blood donation. I tend to be ineligible for blood due to low BP but that doesn’t make me an ineligible donor for marrow.

Keep in contact. Cancer treatment can often be pretty lonely. Treat him line any other player that can’t play through injury.

Collect some magazines. There’s not much you can do when getting chemo besides sit there and wait for the drugs to flow in.

Some hospitals don’t appreciate flowers. Some guys wouldn’t know what do do with them either.

Best wishes to your friend