I remember before I was diagnosed, sometimes when I heard someone had cancer, I would say, "Oh, I know someone who had that." But then I would stop. I wanted the person to know I had some knowledge of their situation, but I knew it was their turn to talk, or not, depending on their need. It wasn't about me. If the person picked up the conversation, I might share a little more, but I let them take the lead. My many years as an oncology nurse helped me learn what people may or may not want from others, but I'm not always right. Most people just don't know what to say. I find they're just so happy to find someone who may understand THEIR pain, they forget that that stranger may be in too much pain themselves to be supportive. Now that I have cancer myself, I find myself switching into nurse mode all too often to take care of others or to educate strangers. It isn't fair, but, unfortunately, it may be the only way people can get the gentle experience they need to become more sensitive.
I'm also an adoptive mom. I do the same thing when people ask questions about my daughter who is not of my race. I answer honestly, gently, and non-judgementally. People don't grow when they're made to feel bad. I find having "pre-recorded" answers helps. A positive encounter with me may make a difference for someone else down the road, and who knows, that questioner may be in my shoes someday. I'm sure there have been many times I've been the one saying the wrong thing, and many situations I haven't learned from yet.