When someone is diagnosed with cancer they may experience a range of emotions such as shock, fear, irritability and anger. You, as a carer, may also feel this way. This can affect communication, which is an important part of any relationship.

People who frequently share their feelings may be better able to talk about cancer. If you usually solve problems or make decisions alone, it may sometimes be more difficult to communicate.


It can be challenging to talk about cancer, its diagnosis and treatment. This may be because you:

  • fear saying the wrong thing
  • don’t know what to say and how to respond
  • feel you shouldn’t talk about the cancer
  • don’t want to say something upsetting
  • feel you have to be supportive and strong for the person with cancer, and worry you could break down.

However, many people find talking helps them cope better with the cancer diagnosis. It also helps couples know how one another is feeling and creates a bond between them.

If you are talking to a young person about cancer, the Talking to Kids About Cancer book may be helpful for you.


Listening is an important part of communication, and helps others talk about how they’re feeling.

Ways to be a good listener

  • Sit somewhere private where you will not be interrupted.
  • Relax and show you are there for as long as needed.
  • Signal that you don’t want to be interrupted, e.g. switch off your mobile phone.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Ask if the other person feels like talking.
  • Focus on the person and listen carefully. Try not to think about something else or plan what you will say next.
  • Ask open questions to get the person with cancer talking.
  • Don’t interrupt or change the subject.
  • Allow the person with cancer to be sad or upset. You don’t have to keep them happy and in good spirits all the time.
  • If the person interrupts you, ask them to wait until you’ve finished.
  • Make sure you have understood what they’ve said, e.g. repeat back information or paraphrase.
  • Try not to give advice, but prompt the person to think about their options. If you do give advice, don’t give it too early.
  • Respond to humour.
  • If the person stops talking, give them some time to gather their thoughts rather than filling in the gap.

Conflict and disagreements

During your role as a carer, there may be times when you disagree with the person you are caring for. It’s normal to have disagreements from time to time. Although dealing with conflict is stressful, it can also be a good way to get closer to the person you are caring for and understand their point of view.

  • If you can’t resolve your differences or if the caring situation becomes too stressful, consider taking a break from your caring role or organising another caring arrangement.
  • Talk to the person you are caring for about your concerns. Let them know that you care about them and want to resolve your differences.
  • If you disagree on something important, try to stay calm and talk through the issues involved. Hear each other out and try to make a decision together. Sometimes people disagree because there has been a misunderstanding.
  • Compare your goals and expectations. For example, some people with advanced cancer choose to stop having treatment to cure the cancer. This may be difficult to accept if you want the person to keep having treatment.
  • Choose your battles – it may help to focus your energy on the issues that really matter.
  • Ask your family and friends for help and support.
  • Talk to your GP or medical team. You might be able to get a referral to a counsellor or social worker who can talk to you about what you are going through.
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Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

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To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
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Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

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Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.