What you need to know if your relative or friend has cancer

Cancer Advisor
August 5, 2019

When a child or young person is diagnosed with cancer, a whole community is affected.

Friends, partners, siblings, grandparents, neighbours, aunts and uncles, teachers and colleagues can all feel overwhelmed by the news. If someone close to you has just found they have cancer, you might find following suggestions helpful.

Get informed

It’s easier to support someone when you have an idea of what they’re going through. Find out about the type of cancer they have and what kind of treatment options are available. Keep in mind that everyone’s experience will be unique, so what works for one person may not have same effect on someone else. Some excellent resources include this resource from the Cancer Council detailing some of the emotional reactions different family members have to a child’s diagnosis, or if the diagnosed person is a little older, this podcast is a good starting point to help you navigate difficult conversations.

Listening can be better than talking

A lot of people diagnosed with cancer talk about ‘information overload’, especially in the early days. Often just being there for someone, ‘hanging out’, and letting them talk about whatever’s on their mind can be appreciated. And if you don’t know what to say, it’s fine to say just that: “I don’t know what to say right now, but I’m here for you.” Here are some tips from others who have supported through cancer and an article from a mum with some helpful things you can do and say for families.

Look after yourself too

Emotionally supporting someone who is ill can be draining. Keep yourself as physically and mentally healthy as you can, through exercise, healthy eating and connecting with support services. There are lots of organisations that can help you help your friend or loved one. Dealing with cancer treatment and its effects can take months or years – keeping yourself in good shape means you can be there for as long as you’re needed.

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