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WTF! Your Friend has Cancer

Updated: Dec 15, 2022


Doctor's hands on table facing cancer patient

If you have a friend or loved one who has cancer, you may be wondering how you can best support them. Of course they are going through a lot, but you are also going to be experiencing many emotions and probably be feeling lost and scared yourself.


The biggest thing is not to be afraid to talk with your friend. Even if you are scared of saying something wrong. Explain to them that you don’t know what to say, this is far better than to stop contact because you are scared of saying the wrong thing.


Every relationship is different with different roles, boundaries and emotions. In this article we are going to cover supporting a friend with cancer and offer some practical advice from people who have been there on what you can do to help. You can take inspiration from the below suggestions to allow you to be the best support to your friend possible.


You can also read our 'what not to say' article for advice on how not to unintentionally upset your loved one who has cancer.


If you have a friend going through treatment remember the other people supporting them.

Main carers can become overwhelmed and sometimes feel overlooked but not want to make a fuss as they aren't sick.


During my cancer treatment my partner found it hard that no one asked how he was - everyone asked him how I was. However, he was also struggling that someone he loved was going through such a tough time.


Checking in to see how the carer is coping or offering to help them with errands, indirectly helps your friend. It gives them emotional or practical assistance and frees up capacity to be a better support for your friend.


One of the biggest things I found during my cancer treatment was that well-meaning friends would say "Let me know if there is anything I can do". This is wonderful and I appreciated the sentiment but I didn't know what I might need and I hate asking for help.


One neighbour would make me meals once a week when they were cooking for themselves, this was always very well received.

Would I have ever asked them to cook me a meal? Hell no!

Did I appreciate the food and did it make my life easier? For sure!


Here are some things that may help your friend day to day;


Emotional:

  • Offer unconditional love and support,

  • Laugh together, cancer is shit but keeping a sense of humour and positive attitude around them can really help make a crap situation more bearable,

  • Regular texts or emails - but don't expect anything back as they may not always be up to replying,

  • Letting them express their emotions or cry if necessary,

  • If they are religious you can let them know you are keeping them in your prayers,

  • Regular cards or letters can be comforting and don't come with the pressure of an immediate response like a text or phone call can,

  • Small gifts to let them know you are thinking of them,

  • Advocating on their behalf with medical procedures,

  • Call if your friend is someone who likes to talk on the phone. Don't be surprised if they don't always answer but know they will appreciate the call even if they don't feel up to talking right then,

  • Hugs! If your friend is a hugger they are going to welcome these with open arms.. literally,

  • If your friend has decided to shave their hair, going along for a cut at the same time can show solidarity. You might not be up for a buzz cut but you could perhaps cut long hair short to donate to a wig charity,

  • Don't let the cancer become all consuming, your friend may want to talk about it but there are many other aspects to their personality and they have the same interests they had before cancer. Encourage them to still talk about and engage in the things they love.

Financial

  • Your friend may be concerned about money but most people don't want to ask for financial help. With their permission, you could start a fundraiser so other people can contribute and ease some financial pressure.

  • If you are in a position to, you may give them cold hard cash to help with time out of work or other medical expenses.

  • Gift vouchers for meals for when they don't feel like cooking will be well received.

Time

  • Take your friend out for a short stroll or to an activity they have the energy for. This might just be a coffee in the park.

  • Personal visits can mean so much, just check they are feeling up to it first and make sure they know it is OK if they say no.

Gifts

  • A blanket which they can use to nap when they are feeling unwell. Bonus points if you can have it embroidered with supportive messages. A weighted blanket can also help with anxiety.

  • Chemo can really dry out skin so a fancy hand cream or moisturiser will be well received. I absolutely fell in love with Elizabeth Arden's Eight hour hand cream.

  • Something that your friend might not buy for themselves that will lift the spirits such as a Beautiful candle or flowers can brighten their day. I was gifted a crystal candle with clear quartz for good health which I thought was a very touching gesture.

  • If you friend loses their hair a gorgeous scarf or some other headwear will be a useful gift. I love the simple but bright patterns on this satin headscarf.

  • The drugs that are given to fight cancer can leave an unpleasant taste and cause nausea in the mouth so ginger lollies or mints can come in handy for your friend,

  • If your friend likes puzzles, a crossword or sudoku book will keep them entertained during their chemo sessions.

  • We have also put together chemo packs that include things they may need to get them through treatment. These include products we found useful ourselves.

Practical

  • Preparing meals that can be kept in the fridge or freezer until a time your friend needs them can be very useful,

  • Fresh fruit delivered to their house will give them something healthy to snack on without too much though,

  • If you aren't much of a cook gift cards for food delivery will allow your friend to choose some comforting meals themselves,

  • If your friend has a favourite coffee and it is practical you can include them in your morning coffee run and deliver to them,

  • When you are grocery shopping offer to pick up anything they need, they might not want to make you do a special trip for them but if you are already there will be more comfortable telling you what they need,

  • Make like Uber and offer to drive them to and from appointments,

  • Help with household chores or errands, things like offering to empty the dishwasher or take the bins out when you are visiting is a small thing that can make a difference,

  • If they have children offer playdates or sleepovers with your own kids or to take them for fun days out to give your friend a break and the kids some much needed fun,

  • If you have children in the same school offer to do the school run as often as practical,

  • Helping them find support groups or counselling services,

  • Make plans to do small activities but make sure they are aware you are flexible and there are no hard feelings if they need to cancel,

  • Above all if you offer help make sure you follow through!

Primary Carers

During this time it is also important to look after yourself, especially if you are the primary carer. Some practical things you can do for yourself are;

  • Staying in touch with other friends and family members

  • Joining a support group for caregivers

  • Getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet

  • Taking time for yourself to relax and recharge

  • Seeking professional help if you're feeling overwhelmed


If you find yourself needing to talk to someone after reading this article you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or The Cancer Council on 13 11 20

 

Considerate Gifts for your friend

We have a carefully curated selection of gifts for your loved one in our store but I also recommend these products which I absolutely loved during my cancer treatment.



Clinique Even Better Clinical Radical Dark Spot Corrector.

Your friend's skin is going to be going through hell during chemo and can become more blemished than normal. I used this to clear up some skin damage and absolutely loved the texture and the results for reducing blemishes & correcting skin tone. I have continued to use it now I'm post chemo.


Click to purchase



Eau Thermale Avène Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream


Avène Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream helps repair damaged, dry, cracked, and non-oozing skin in 48 hours. Skin is immediately soothed after the first application, and the cutaneous barrier is restored


Click to purchase



Cancer Council Daywear SPF 50+ Light Tint BB Cream

Show you care by giving your friend the gift of sun protection. Chemo damages the skin and makes it more sensitive to light. Encourage your friend to use this daily and they will give their skin the best chance of staying safe during their treatment.


Click to purchase

Support Resources

Cancer Council Australia

CCA an organisation to support all Australians affected by cancer through support, research and prevention programs.


Ovarian Cancer Australia

OCA is an independent national not-for-profit organisation, supporting women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Our focus is to provide care and support for those affected by ovarian cancer; and represent them by leading change. Our vision is to save lives and ensure no woman with ovarian cancer walks alone.


Breast Cancer Network Australia

BCNA Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) is Australia’s leading breast cancer consumer organisation. We have worked tirelessly to ensure that all Australians who are affected by breast cancer receive the very best care, treatment and support.


Bowel Cancer Australia

BCA Peer-to-Peer Support Network connects patient’s and loved ones on a one-to-one buddy basis that enables members to give and receive advice about their bowel cancer experience in an informal and mutually beneficial way.


Leukaemia Foundation

LF is a support service for patients and supporters dealing with blood cancers.


*FU Cancer is supported by its audience. If you choose to purchase through the links on our site we may receive an affiliate commission. This goes towards paying our expenses plus a percentage of our monthly profit goes towards directly helping people with cancer. If you know someone who could do with a boost during their cancer treatment please let us know here.



*FU Cancer is supported by its audience. If you choose to purchase through the links on our site we may receive an affiliate commission. This goes towards paying our expenses plus a percentage of our monthly profit goes towards directly helping people with cancer. If you know someone who could do with a boost during their cancer treatment please let us know here.





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