Tips for talking to a loved one dealing with cancer

July is Sarcoma Awareness Month and we at Cancer Education UK are here to provide support to patients and families on their cancer journey. We have an understanding and insight into those touched by cancer as well as being able to listen, help and try and answer any question you may have. We have a network of like-minded people who have been or going through the same journey as your loved one.

It is not easy when faced with this disease and many of us do not know what way to react. There is no right answer as we are all different and that’s what makes us so unique. Each person has their own individual coping mechanisms and ways of dealing with this part of their life but we at Cancer Education UK would like to give you some tips, whether you are dealing with cancer and would like to share with family or friends or you are a family or friend looking for some advice on how to be there for your loved one. We won’t say it’s easy, as it’s not, but a familiar and friendly face, someone that can be a sounding board, and just someone to hold your hand is all that is needed. We hope the advice below will help:

  1. Choose your moment to discuss wisely and maybe rearrange in advance. Have a chat in a comfortable place and at a time that is good for you both. Remember that after some treatments patients can be tired and may need some space. If you have not seen your loved one in a while, please refrain from any comments on how they look.
  2. Do not feel that your loved one wants to speak to you, and do not make them feel obliged to. Let them know you are there and they can come to you when it feels best for them. Remember this is not about you, so refrain from speaking about yourself for now.
  3. Just listen or sit in silence if needed. We know you won’t have all the answers, just listening and knowing you are there is enough.
  4. Talking can be tiring to all of us after a while so make sure that you make some time to plan something fun after.
  5. Respect the other person’s feelings. It is better to let them speak openly and honestly, without telling them everything will be ok and to stay positive, this can lead to frustration or guilt.
  6. Show you are listening by repeating what you have heard and ask any questions you feel would help you to understand better. Don’t preach or give your own ideas or thoughts.
  7. Please remember everyone’s cancer journey is unique and personal so try to hold back from talking about other people’s cancer stories.
  8. An obvious one, but humour is best avoided during this chat.
  9. It’s ok to get emotional and show empathy, we are all human!
  10. Don’t ignore or disappear from your loved one, remember that cancer can be lonely and isolating. A simple, ‘I am here for you’ text can mean the world.

Lastly, show that you care and they are loved. Offer to help with cooking, cleaning, running errands. Maybe surprise them with a few magazines or books. Reach out and give a hug and offer your support and help with the expectation of nothing in return.

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