What do you say when there is nothing at all to say?
Even if it's off-topic, I'm usually pretty good at breaking tension, coming up with some ridiculous spin on something relevant or irrelevant to bring a smile about or help someone find a solution. I'm a problem solver. I don't just think outside of the box, I don't even bother with the box. I've got a ridiculously vast network of random people that I've been able to use to my advantage in helping people.
And, in the rare case that I don't know what to say myself, I can usually give a really constructive referral. And then make a person smile.
I'm not a cancer survivor, and my grandmother, who was the closest person to me that I watched get sick with cancer, stay in a hospital and pass away, died when I was 5, I don't remember (thankfully) what was said, or done. All I remember was being in her hospital room at Stamford Hospital, chewing Fruit Stripe gum, drawing with my cousin, whom, at the time, I hated (the feeling was mutual), and being most upset that I couldn't go for a walk with Gramma because she was too tired. And the tubes going in and out of her looked like she was tied to the bed, so clearly, she wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.
Because of this, I have no pearls of wisdom to share (other than the fact that Fruit Strip gum does seem to make EVERYTHING better) when speaking to someone battling cancer who cannot find answers themselves. I have no advice for him.
Don't runaway, though. But don't put your inability to help on their shoulders, either. It's not their fault. And it's not yours.
This is about them, not you.
Lesson learned: Just be there. Keep them talking. Offer your shoulder, a joke, a smile, a tissue, whatever you can.
And always have a pack of Fruit Stripe gum on hand.