How to support someone with cancer

When a family member, friend or loved one is diagnosed with cancer you may feel like your life is being turned upside down, and it can be difficult to know what to say. Most people will really appreciate knowing that you are there for them so do not be afraid to contact them.

Every cancer is different and people will deal with cancer in different ways. Try not to assume how they may be feeling or what their experience is like. It is important to think about how they are feeling that day. Some days will be good, others may be more difficult.

If your loved one if talking about their cancer, listen carefully and take in what they are saying. Try not to fill silences and let them be sad if they want to. If you feel yourself getting emotional do not change the subject or hide it, it is ok to cry and acknowledge how you are feeling too.

Why do we support families of people with cancer?

Statistically 1 in 2 people who live in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. That’s 1 in 2 families, friends and loved ones supporting someone through cancer. We know that cancer effects everyone, even if you don’t have cancer.

How do we help?

  • We listen to people’s fears, anxieties, and experiences
  • We discuss strategies that may help, both emotionally and practically
  • We can help explain a diagnosis and different treatments, and liaise with health professionals
  • We use exercise to promote your own wellbeing

Some top tips

  • Sometimes people will want to talk about their cancer, other days they will want to talk about normal everyday life. Try to follow their lead.
  • Try to listen carefully and not feel pressure to give answers or solutions to their concerns.
  • Tell them if you are afraid of saying the wrong thing, it acknowledges it and opens a conversation.
  • If you don’t know what to say give them a smile, a hug or a hand squeeze. It will mean more than you know.
  • Send them a card or a text often, to let them know you are thinking of them.
  • Do practical things to help, make extra dinner and drop a portion round to your loved one. Don’t wait for them to ask.
  • Try not to forget about yourself, self care is important to ensure you can support your loved one in the way you want to