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The Importance Of Friendship When You Have Cancer

A lot of things change in your life when you're diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly your daily routine isn't the same, with doctors appointments, treatments and all sorts of other things you need to fit into the day. There's a lot more worry in your head - more than you ever thought there was room for, and just managing to get through the day-to-day can be a reason to celebrate.


But one of the things cancer almost always has an impact on that isn't talked about enough is friendships. During such a time of stress, illness and difficulty, friendships are more important than ever during a cancer journey. But they aren't always as reliable as you think.


The Impact Cancer Has On Friendships 


It's a horrible thing to say, but you will probably lose some friends when you tell them about your cancer diagnosis. It's a bit similar to the divorce rates among cancer sufferers- it's not nice to think about, but the numbers bear it out. Recently cancer charity Maggie's did some research into the effect a cancer diagnosis has on friendships, and the results are both shocking and saddening. They found that:

  • 59% of people said they found it difficult to know what to say when they found out about a friend's diagnosis.

  • 9% avoided their friend after they found out about the diagnosis.

  • 42% admitted that it upset them too much to see their friend with cancer.


Which is more than a bit sad! But the thing is, friendship is an incredibly important thing to cancer patients. It helps provide a sense of normality, keeps their spirits up, and allows those relationships to keep growing and flourishing.


What Cancer Patients Need From Their Friends


We know just how difficult it can be when a close friend has cancer. You can feel awkward and not know what to say, or worry about saying the wrong thing. But here's the reality - the most important thing you can do is be there. Yes, it's hard for you, but it's much harder for the person with cancer. Maggie's also surveyed cancer patients about what they want most from a friend, and the results were really interesting. 


  • Listening to them cry 

  • Driving to appointments

  • Keeping them company at appointments 

  • Helping with children (like taking them to school, classes, playdates or looking after them while they are at appointments)

  • Bringing cooked meals round

  • Looking after their pet

  • Helping the kids with their homework


 So you see, there are no big gestures you need to make. All you need to do is be there to support them, and help with some of the things they're struggling with. After all, that's what friendship is for!


Another interesting point made by MacMillan is that sometimes the person with cancer might need someone to talk to. It's a new and scary process for them, and they will need emotional support. Just being there for them to talk to, even if you aren't sure what to say, can be hugely helpful. And if you aren't sure what to say - tell them that! Don't let the awkward feelings get in the way, as it might end more than the conversation. Listen, respect their feelings, and try not to give platitudes like ‘it will all be ok’.  Because some of the time, it isn't.


Managing Your Own Feelings


Of course, cancer affects more people than just the person suffering from it. As their friend, you will probably feel all sorts of emotions when you find out they have cancer, as they go through treatment and especially if the cancer isn't treatable. And while it's important to be a good friend during this time, you need to take care of yourself too. 


That might mean talking about it with a partner, another friend or a counsellor. It might mean speaking with professionals from cancer charities (they are there for anyone impacted by a cancer diagnosis), or you might want to join an online community to discuss your feelings and get support from people in the same position. Whatever your preference, it's important that you process the information and experience in a healthy way.


At Jill's Fundraising Journey, we know just how difficult having a loved one with cancer is. That's why we started the charity - to provide people impacted by a cancer diagnosis a chance to have a getaway, make memories and get some space from the whole experience. If you'd like to book, or support the charity in another way, please get in touch with us today.



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