What You Can Do If A Friend Or Family Member Is Diagnosed With Cancer
How can you be a good friend to someone with cancer? We spoke to two experts to find out.
Being diagnosed with cancer is a huge shock. It will fill people will dread, and they might feel overwhelmed. More than ever, they’ll need good friends around them. But how can you be a good friend to someone with cancer? MTV spoke to two experts to find out.
Matt Dalley was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was 19 years old, in July 2013. He underwent treatment for three years and two months, which finished successfully in November 2016.
We asked Matt to share his tips on what you can do – and what you should avoid - if you want to be a better friend to someone with cancer.
“I was quite lucky, I had a good group of friends that supported me loads when I was going through it,” said Matt. “There was a lot of sh*t with people who kept asking ‘are you ok?’ - and that's one of the main things that I got annoyed with.
“A lot of friends knew [about the cancer], so they avoided [questions] like that. But when you're going through the treatment and the chemo, you're obviously not ok. You're not feeling ok.”
We also got in touch with Sara Francis, from the Macmillan Support Line, to hear her dos and don’ts for talking to a friend who has cancer. “Don’t be afraid to start the conversation,” said Sara. “Your friend may want to talk, but not know where to start. Try asking them how they’re feeling and go from there.”
Matt gave similar advice. “You’re not always able to message someone. Some friends might drop off a bit and you don't see them as much,” he said. “So it is always nice when a friend messages you first. Just to chat, to talk about anything. You get lonely on the treatment because you're so stuck in one routine. You're not able to do anything.”
Even if your friend is going through an arduous time, both Sara and Matt advised to throw some humour into the mix. “I know not everyone's the same about it, but keeping light-hearted with it all [is important]. My friends were really joke-y about it, making stupid comments and stuff like that,” said Matt.
“It's quite morbid, so I know not everyone would appreciate people making jokes, but with me, making it light-hearted and being able to take the piss with my friends was a good coping strategy.”
Sara had similar advice to give. “Your friend might not want to be downbeat and may actually enjoy some light relief from their situation,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to laugh and joke if the mood is right.”
If someone close to you has just been diagnosed with cancer, Matt recommends reading up to find out more about what they’re going through. “Definitely use the right sites, like Macmillan, and anything more legit”.
“[When I told my friends, they all] instantly Googled it to see what it is, without telling me, to see what chances I had. [They wanted] to see if I was going to die from it. Then they all got themselves a bit shook.
“They all got these different facts and these crazy things from these random websites saying how bad it is, but not knowing how treatable it is as well.
“So they would just see the negative news from it, but if they'd used something like Macmillan, they would've been able to see that you can sort it with this and treat it. Educating themselves in the right way, with the right sites, is definitely one of the main things.”
Sara also recommended learning more about what your friend is going through, citing how important it is to understand what your friend is saying to you. “It’s ok to ask questions if you’re not sure about something - cancer can be hugely complex and your friend is likely to be taking on a lot of new information,” Sara said.
“If you are still unclear after asking, Macmillan’s website is a great resource and can help you to understand the practicalities of what they’re going through.”
Thanks to both Matt and Sara for their time and help.
Through services like Macmillan’s Online Community website, Macmillan Cancer Support is here on World Cancer Day (Saturday 4th February) and all year round to support people living with cancer and their loved ones. On their Online Community, you’ll find people who know how you feel, because they’re facing cancer too.
The Online Community can be found at community.macmillan.org.uk. If you just need someone to talk to, the team on Macmillan’s Support Line are there to listen. The Support Line is open Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm.