Cancer Support System

You just got the news that your close friend or family member has cancer. You want to be there for them, but you’re not sure how.

First, always ask permission. Receiving a cancer diagnosis can cause dramatic changes in anyone’s life. Remember that this is happening to them, not you. Ensure that they know it is okay if they don’t want you around or don’t want to hear advice, but if they do, let them know you’re at the ready.

Don’t stop making plans. A diagnosis is not the end of the world. In fact, making plans with someone who has cancer can give them something to look forward to.

Be considerate. Recognize that they may need flexibility when making plans. Don’t be afraid to share a funny story or laugh with your friend or family member, but understand that they need room to be sad, too. Don’t completely ignore uncomfortable topics. Address them, as far as the person is willing to talk about those topics, and be present with them.

Follow through is also important. If someone has accepted your offer of help, then be sure to follow through. Stability and knowing someone is there for them could be something they need. Remember that they are still your friend or family member, and you don’t have to treat them like someone else.

What not to say:

  • “I know how you feel.” Odds are you do not know what they’re experiencing.
  • “I know what you should do.” If you’ve never had cancer and are not a doctor, then you probably don’t know. Even if you are a cancer survivor, keep in mind that everyone deals with traumatic events differently and what worked for you might not work for someone else.
  • “I’m sure you’ll be fine.” Cancer in today’s world can be very treatable, but doctors also don’t know everything about it. Assuring someone they will be fine does not mean they will be and can only add to the pressure and stress they already feel.

Content by Lockton Dunning Benefits with info from