The effect on people close to you

You may find that how your family and friends react to your diagnosis varies, and they may not react in the way you expect them to. They may need time to adjust to your diagnosis, and may experience similar fears and anxieties, and need as much information and advice as you.

Sometimes family members may feel more distressed than the person with cancer. This seems to be more common when there is a lack of communication between the person diagnosed with cancer and the people close to them.

Cancer is often a reminder that life is fragile, and family and friends may behave in ways you find difficult or hurtful. Some may stay away or stop contacting you because they don’t know how to respond or are afraid of losing you. Others may block out or ignore things that are too painful to contemplate. However, you may find that your friends respond with understanding and openness, and become even closer.

Your friends or family may need to take their lead from you. You can guide them on how much you want to talk about the illness and the different issues you want to think about or plan together.

Ways to keep friends and family updated

There are many ways to keep friends and family updated when you don’t have the time or energy to talk with people individually. Use text messages, email, blogs or social networking sites, or write one letter and have copies sent to loved ones. Ask for replies so you know what others are up to.

       − Leon


Getting help

People might be eager to offer help when they first hear about your diagnosis.

Some people will prefer doing practical things for you, such as cooking a meal, shopping for groceries or driving you to an appointment; others may be good at keeping you company.

People you know from your current or past workplaces may help by providing updates about what is happening at work, if you want to know or would like the distraction.

Contact home care services or Cancer Council to see what assistance they can offer with domestic tasks such as cooking and cleaning. For more information, see Support and information.

Ways to coordinate help

  • Delegate one friend or relative to coordinate offers of help and to update others of your progress if you’re not able to contact everyone individually yourself.
  • Use online tools to help you organise volunteers, e.g. Lovlist or Meal Train. If you’re keen to stay independent, it can be challenging if your friends want to do everything for you.

This information was last reviewed in December 2016
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