Hearing a friend or family member has been dealt a cancer diagnosis can mean you are struggling with your own emotional response, as well as wondering how you can effectively communicate and help that person.  Both emotional and practical support can be a huge help for anyone newly diagnosed with cancer but sometimes it’s hard to know the right thing to say and how to help.

Here are a few tips:

  • be available to listen. Let your friend know that you’re available to come over when needed but also respecting their need for space
  • be yourself. You don’t need to worry about not knowing what to say and sometimes, not saying anything is the best support
  • let them know you care. Many people find it difficult to ask for help Helping may be in the form of cooking a homemade meal or offering to do the grocery shopping. Some other ideas include helping with pets or kids, light cleaning and driving them to medical appointments. You might even be able to work out a roster of family and friends to cover each medical visit
  • call or visit as normal, but be respectful of times. Make sure you don’t turn up unannounced and please stay away if you are unwell yourself
  • ask what else they would like you to do and listen for clues.

Things that won’t help:

  • telling your friend about the latest cure or treatment you’ve heard about
  • telling them horror stories about other people with cancer
  • stopping regular contact such as ringing or visiting
  • telling them to change their lifestyle or diet
  • reminding them it could be worse
  • tell them to ‘be positive’ – it may make it hard for them to talk to you about how they really feel.

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