Talking to friends and family

A cancer diagnosis impacts on you in many different ways. One thing which may surprise you is the way family and friends deal with the situation. You may find that people find it difficult to talk to you, ignore you, or conversely that people become intrusive. Below are a few suggestions to help you cope with the changes in your friends and family.

Taking up offers of help

People who are close to you will want to help you. Often they will ask if there is anything they can do. It is important to them to be able to support you and these offers are genuinely made.

Think of practical things, such as a lift to appointments at hospital, collecting something from the shops or walking the dog. If there isn’t anything they can do at that moment, use the opportunity to keep the favour for another time, and also to share a little of what’s happening in your life. It’s always a good idea to let people know that you welcome their offer, and even if you do not take them up on this occasion, say something like, “Is it OK if I ask in the future?” This will reassure them that they have done the right thing and that you welcome their support and will be seeking help when you need it. Very often the offers of help are made because people don’t know what else they can do or say. Maybe it’s an opportunity to have a good catch up, or to let them know how you are feeling.

Finding someone to talk to

Some people facing cancer find it difficult to talk to their families. Women often tell us that they don’t want to cause loved ones distress. Being able to talk to someone is important, Ovacome can help.

Other people’s feelings

Sometimes people will want to talk on a day when you are feeling especially distracted or down. You may feel caught at an inconvenient moment. Maybe someone you hardly know stops you in the supermarket with all the details of a family member’s experience of cancer. You really don’t want to hear their story, but you know they are just trying to be nice or relate to you. How can you stop them politely? Sometimes you just have to take a couple of deep breaths and say calmly, “Thank you so much for your concern, but I need to focus on something else today.” Remember, this is about you and your situation. You decide when you want to talk.

Your family and friends may become angry too. Just as you are going through many different emotions, those around you may be going through the same kind of feelings. Most people will feel angry at some point, but try to keep in mind that family and friends are angry with the situation and not with you.

Family dynamics may change for a while as everyone has to adjust; not only their roles but also their expectations. It’s a good idea to try to encourage people to continue the normal family routines so that life changes are kept to a minimum.

People with cancer often report that their friends’ behaviour has changed. They may feel that friends are avoiding them which is upsetting and perplexing, especially at a time when you are already dealing with cancer. If this is troubling you, maybe another person can approach them on your behalf and explain how you are feeling. The friend or family member may have drawn back from you for many reasons and understanding why they are behaving this way may help you both.  Just sharing how this is making you feel sad or angry could be enough to resolve the problem.

For more help in dealing with friends and family please call us on 0800 008 7054 or you can email us You may also find helpful support and suggestions in our forum here.

Last review April 2016
Date of next review April 2018

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