How to Help Someone with Cancer

4 July 2017

Read full transcript

Expert interviewed:
Kim Hobbs, Social worker

Kim Hobbs and Julie McCrossinThe thing about cancer is that it can be hard to know how to help.

If someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer, you might really want to be supportive, but it’s tough to find the right words or you might be worried about intruding. 

In this episode of The Thing About Cancer podcastJulie McCrossin chats to social worker Kim Hobbs about ways to offer meaningful support to someone after a cancer diagnosis.

Kim talks about how to navigate conversations about cancer in a sensitive manner if your partner, friend or someone from your family has cancer.

She also discusses a range of ways you can help someone through the emotional and physical challenges that a cancer diagnosis often brings.

Listen to How to Help Someone with Cancer now, or find more episodes here.

If someone you know has cancer, how should you react?

First off, if you learn that someone you know has cancer, what’s the appropriate response?

Kim explains that there isn’t one right response. You should consider the age, personality, stage of cancer, and other factors when the subject first comes up.

Importantly, you should convey empathy and concern; not panic and fear.

What can you do to help?

What are helpful ways to help someone during and after cancer treatment? And how can you go about asking if they need help in a sensitive way that doesn’t make that person feel uncomfortable?

Kim addresses these issues, and tackles many other questions that you might have. Questions like, what if you offer help to a person affected by cancer, and they don’t respond? Should you share your own cancer experience with them? What if the person you’re trying to help expresses frustration or anger?

Kim Hobbs, social worker

Many people are very supportive during cancer treatment, which is great, Kim says. Providing that practical support to someone going through treatment can be invaluable – doing things like cooking meals to freeze, or picking up your friend’s kids from school can make all the difference.

Kim reminds us that support is still needed after cancer treatment, but often this support fades away, even though the emotional and physical strain can still be significant for the person with cancer.

Caring for the carer

Kim explains that a really effective way to help someone with cancer may be to offer support to their main carer. The focus is naturally on the person with cancer, but the caring role can be demanding and stressful too, and carers sometimes feel forgotten. Offering practical help to the carer may allow them to take a much-needed break.

 – Kim Hobbs, social worker

This wide-ranging conversation reflects Kim’s wealth of experience supporting people with cancer and is full of down-to-earth suggestions.

Want more information or support? 

If you heard something mentioned in the podcast, you’ll find a link to it below. We’ve also added links to other sources of information and support.

From Cancer Council NSW 

From other organisations 

Listen to How to Help Someone with Cancer now, or find more episodes here.