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Don’t know what to say or how to support a friend with cancer?

Blog post | 13 Sep 2022

Cancer continues to have a major impact on the lives of Australians. With 1 in 2 people affected by cancer in their lives, you’re going to know someone with cancer in your lifetime too.

Worried you may say the wrong thing or not sure what to do?

Treat your friend the same as you did before their cancer diagnosis but always follow their lead.

Read on to discover more ways to support your friend.

Be a good listener

Listening to someone who has cancer may be one of the most important ways you can support them. Keep eye contact with them when they’re talking to you. Don’t give them medical advice. Just listen and be there for your friend.

You can also show your support by taking part in the 2022 Daffodil Day Appeal, Thursday, 25 August.

Reach out to them

Make the time and effort to see how they’re doing. Send them a message or call them. But make sure you ask them before you visit.

Stay connected with your friend past their diagnosis and treatment.

Do normal things

Don’t stop doing everyday activities with your friend if they want to keep doing them. Watch TV or listen to music with them. Cook their favourite dish, or garden with them.

Don’t stop inviting them to social events. They can RSVP if they want.

Offer practical support

Your friend may not necessarily ask for support or even accept it. Offer help that’s practical. For example, cook for them, walk their dog or mind their children when they go for treatment. Coordinate with their family and friends to help them.

The power of words

Cancer Council Victoria has put together helpful phrases to say and unhelpful phrases not to say to your friend with cancer.

Helpful phrases Unhelpful phrases
I care for you and I'm here for you. I know just how you feel.
If you feel like talking, I'm here to listen. I know just what you should do.
Many people in a situation like yours would
have that reaction.
I know someone who had the same diagnosis.
It seems reasonable to me to be feeling sad. Don't worry.
I can hear it has been really hard for you to
share, thank you for sharing.
I'm sure you'll be fine.
You've been going through a really tough time. You're strong you can beat this.
I'm always here if you'd like to talk.
I also know the Cancer Council has cancer
nurses you can speak to. Can I give you their number?
How long do you have?

For more information

This post was originally published on 23 August 2022 and has been updated to include the most recent details on this topic.

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