- Cancer Information
- Advanced cancer
- Facing end of life
- Emotional and spiritual concerns
- The effect on people close to you
The effect on people close to you
You may sometimes feel that the hardest part about dying is the effect it will have on your family and friends.
People living with terminal cancer often say family and friends react in a range of ways when they find out the disease is at the end stage.
Different family members and friends may:
- offer to help in any way they can
- be overprotective, not wanting to leave you alone
- refuse to believe the prognosis, saying things like “I’m sure you’ll get better” or “You’ll beat this”, or suggest various forms of treatment or alternative therapies
- volunteer the story of a friend or celebrity who experienced a miraculous recovery from something everyone had deemed hopeless and fatal
- pull away and withdraw from your life
- start to regard you as already gone.
Some of these reactions can be hurtful and frustrating, but they don’t mean that your family and friends don’t care. They need time to adjust to the news and come to terms with how they’re feeling. While you may be disappointed by the reactions of some people, you may also be surprised by how much support is offered and who offers it.
Dr Megan Ritchie, Staff Specialist Palliative Medicine, Palliative Care Service, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW; Gabrielle Asprey, Cancer Support Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Rosemary Cavanough, Consumer; Louise Durham, Nurse Practitioner, Metro South Palliative Care Service, QLD; Tracey Gardner, Senior Psychologist, Cancer Counselling Service, Cancer Council Queensland; Karen Hall, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Linda Nolte, Program Director, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC; Rowena Robinson, Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia, ACT; Helena Rodi, Program Manager, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
The information on this page is also available for download.