Supporting a Friend - Lets Fuck Cancer


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A caregiver’s guide to

Supporting a Friend

Near, far, wherever you are – supporting someone you love while they go through cancer can be challenging. We’ve got your back, so you can have theirs.

Things to Keep in Mind

When it comes to supporting your friend, you know them best. Every friendship is unique, so do what feels right for your relationship.

Keep it simple

The little things are often the most meaningful. Just calling your friend or watching a movie with them can mean the world when they’re going through it.

Prepare yourself

Try to process your own feelings before talking to your friend. They’re going through enough already, they don’t need to take on the burden of processing your feelings too. Learn more here.

They’re not just a patient

Your friend is still the same person they’ve always been. Don’t forget to talk to them about all the interests and passions you share, in addition to talking to them about cancer if they want to.

Learn about their cancer

You don’t need to be an expert, but doing a little background research on their cancer allows you to spend your time talking about other things and not just having them regurgitate facts. But remember that every experience is unique.

Consider their perspective

While you should never assume you know what they’re going through, consider what your friend might be going through and things you can do to help. This will make you more empathetic when you talk to them.

Support the primary caregiver, too

Both people with cancer and their caregivers need a strong support system around them when dealing with cancer. Make sure their caregiver feels supported too, if appropriate.

Stick around

Cancer doesn’t end when treatment is over. If your friend is open to it, continue to offer support as time goes on.

What to Say

When a friend is diagnosed with cancer, it can feel scary and overwhelming. You might not know what to say or not to say. Just remember that your friend is still the same person they’ve always been. Talk to them like you normally would, be honest, and if you’re not sure, ask them. Sometimes saying you don’t know what to say is the best thing you can say. If you’re stuck, here are some ways to start:

“I’m sorry this is happening.”
“I love you and am here for you.”
“Whenever you want to talk, I’m here.”
“How can I help today? What about next week?”
“It’s good to see you.”
“Fuck Cancer!”

Knowing how to start the conversation can be the hardest part. Feel free to communicate in person, over the phone, via text, or video call. Check in with your friend to see what they prefer and if they’re up for a visit. It’s also nice to remind them that they don’t have to reply if they’re not feeling up to it.

How to Help

Keep these tips in mind to help guide your friendship in this new stage.

Check in

Whether you have a standing date or just reach out whenever you’re thinking of them, check in on your friend consistently so they know they can rely on you.

Be flexible

Make plans that can easily be changed and try to remain understanding if your friend needs to adjust your plans. Living with cancer means dealing with unexpected health and emotional changes.

Leave space

Let them know that it’s okay if they need to lay low or not reply sometimes. You’ll still be here when they’re ready.

Take cues

Follow their lead about discussing certain topics or their energy for certain activities.

Respect their decisions

Your friend’s health is their own. Don’t try to pressure them into any decisions related to their cancer or treatment, and only give your opinion if asked.

Ask permission

Make sure it’s okay for you to see them in person, give advice, or ask questions about their cancer before doing so. They may not always be up for these things.

Have fun

Don’t forget to laugh and have fun just like usual. When you’ve lost your sense of humor, you’ve lost it all.

Acknowledge sadness

It’s easy to want to avoid sadness or talking about heavy topics with your friend when they have cancer. But it’s important not to ignore uncomfortable topics or feelings.

Offer to help

Ask your friend (or their primary caregiver) how you can help. If they can’t think of specific needs they have, you can offer some ideas.

Follow through

If you tell your friend you’ll do something, follow through with that promise.

Talk about other things

Don’t forget to talk about other topics besides cancer. You can make plans for the future that you can both look forward to.

Ideas to Support

People with cancer and their primary caregivers need a support system around them. Sometimes, they’ll have a list of items they need help with. Often, though, cancer is so overwhelming that they don’t even know what they might need. Here are some ideas that you can offer to help.

Run errands

Go grocery shopping or pick up prescriptions.

Household chores

Cooking, cleaning, laundry, and gardening.

Help with meals

Cook a meal, pick up takeout and drop it off, or send a gift card (just ask about dietary restrictions first).

Child care

Babysit, take them to and from school and activities, or arrange playdates.

Pet care

Walk, feed, bathe, or play with the pets.

Hang out

Watch a movie, play a game, go for a walk, or talk all night.

Go to appointments

Drive them, take notes, and hang out during appointments.

Medical or insurance assistance

Make medical or insurance calls and find resources.

Coordinate help

Meal trains, phone chains, scheduling, or fundraisers.

Gift Ideas

If your love language is gift giving, here are a few ideas that your friend might like and use while they’re going through cancer.

Gift certificate

Food delivery, cleaning service, task rabbit, grocery store, or a massage.

Things to read

Magazines, books, or audiobooks.


Your favorite memories or their favorite people and places.


Crossword, sudoku, or puzzles.


Coloring books, needlepoint kits, or other creative outlets.


Note cards or a journal.

Something sentimental

A video message or scrapbook.

Curated playlist

Music, TV shows, or movies your friend would like.


Something cozy or something to make them feel normal again.

If You Live Far Away

Even if you live far away from your friend, you are still part of their support system and can provide assistance.

Be prepared

If you’ve been asked to deal with any medical, financial, or legal needs for your friend, make sure you have all the information you need. You may need specific documents, such as advance directives, or personal information to coordinate services on your friend’s behalf.

Organize a support system

People with cancer need a whole team of support. Coordinate tasks with your friend’s other loved ones or get a free, personalized patient navigator.

Consider home care

If your friend doesn’t have a primary caregiver who is local to them, you may want to look into professional home care services. The health care team, social worker, or state or local health department can provide reliable referrals.

Anticipate unplanned travel

If your friend needs your help, you may need to travel to them unexpectedly. Save vacation or sick days at work, understand the best way to travel to your friend, and budget appropriately.

Source: American Cancer Society; American Society of Clinical Oncology; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

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