Being A Friend To Someone with Cancer

By Samantha Chin
October 2, 2015

Facing a cancer diagnosis can be extremely frightening and life-changing, so adequate support from loved ones and friends is essential. If you have a friend who has cancer, there are many things you can do to help:

  • Find out all you can about what your friend is facing - your interest will show you care.
  • Ask them how they are feeling about the diagnosis. Respect their wish to talk all day or not at all.
  • Understand the emotional swings that go with cancer. Learn to cry with those who cry, and laugh with those who laugh. Take your cue from them.
  • Cancer treatment can be exhausting and debilitating. Discover practical ways you can help and remember the whole family’s needs. Offer to help with specific tasks, such as taking care of children, preparing a meal or buying groceries.
  • Remember to ask permission before visiting, asking questions or offering help. There will be times when your friend declines an offer, so don’t take it personally.
  • Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can take their toll on physical appearance. Find ways of helping your friend feel attractive. Buy a present – perhaps a pretty scarf or nice cap to cover hair loss.
  • Understand that it costs to enter into a deeper friendship with someone who has cancer. You may find yourself giving a lot of time and emotional energy and discussing difficult issues including death. Your commitment is vital, and the rewards in terms of deeper friendship could be priceless.
  • Above all, bring hope, friendship, understanding, acceptance and humor.

Friendship with those who have serious illnesses like cancer is two-way. You may help them practically and emotionally, but they may give much to you in return, through their life perspective and determination to live purposefully.


Adapted from Living with Serious Illness by Care for the Family. 


We also have professional counseling services where your friend, friend's spouse or even family will be able to speak to our trained counselors as they go through this period.

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