How To Support Someone With Cancer Emotionally and Mentally | Your Complete Guide

Last Update on February 3, 2021 : Published on February 3, 2021
Supporting Someone With Cancer

I was recently reading an interview about cancer patients that dated back to the 1980s. It covered different aspects of the invisible process that a cancer survivor goes through, which is unknown to us. But the highlight of that 10-page interaction was- Need of Emotional Support for Cancer Patients. While it did talk about the importance of supporting a loved one with cancer I went on wondering how you can extend your support to someone with cancer.

Did you know?

4th of February is marked as World Cancer Day. Each year runs a campaign with a specific theme for a given year. This year the theme is I am and I will. This promotes the mantra that together, all our actions matter, They matter to bring a change, create awareness, and develop a stronger supporting community for cancer warriors. That is why we are contributing our part by sharing this write-up with you.


Be Ready To Be By Their Side

Before you are ready to support a friend with cancer you have to first be mentally prepared to make it work. To prepare yourself to help someone with cancer we are sharing a mini-guide with you.

1. Be Informed: Be well informed about the diagnosis of your friend or loved one. Also, be correctly informed about the condition. If you are communicating with them about their health condition it will make them feel that you care for them. Also, if they are not comfortable with sharing or talking about the same, do not push them.

2. Work on Your Feelings: The news of diagnosis might be difficult for you as well. Take your time to process these overwhelming feelings, acknowledge them, and work through them before meeting your loved ones. This will help you become stronger to face them and support them.

3. Step in Their Shoes: While you might not be exactly able to feel what they are going through you can still process what being sick and ill feels like. Acknowledge that they will be going to even more intense physical and emotional processes. So be there with them and uplift their spirits rather than commenting on their physical or mental state.

Tips To Support A Friend With Cancer Emotionally

Now that you are emotionally and mentally ready to meet your friend and offer your help to them here are five ways for you to work on.

1. Don’t Just Say I Will Be There Prove It

Saying that you will be there for them or you are just a ping away, are not concrete ways to provide help to someone with cancer. You really have to be there for them when they need you. Ask them how you can help them. Maybe they would like to get some help with grocery shopping or get you company on their way to appointments.

2. Check-in With Them

Keep checking in with your loved ones to assure them that they are not alone and that they are backed with a strong support system. You may leave them a message, ring them up, or be at their door. No matter what you are doing to be in touch with them and ensuring that they are doing well remember three things here:

  • Tell them that it is okay if they do not feel like picking up your call.
  • Ask them if they are available physically and emotionally to meet you in person.
  • If you are planning on calling them at equal intervals (maybe on Mondays or weekends) keep them informed.

3. Talk About Topics Other Than Cancer

Yes, your loved one has been diagnosed with cancer but that is not the only area of their life now. Talk about other things than cancer. This will be a healthy distraction for them. You may talk to them about their interests, hobbies, plans for the weekend, and other such things. Don’t restrict their life to their health condition. They too seek for general communication, have the same with them.

4. Don’t Deny The Feelings

Do not deny the diagnosis or feelings of your friends. We understand that in some cases misdiagnosis of cancer also takes place and you would hope for the same for your loved ones.

But, make sure that you communicate the idea of taking a second opinion subtly. Denial may lead to a delay in the treatment which can increase the risk for the person. That is why make sure that your reasons behind a second opinion are valid and not just false hopes.

Follow These Do’s and Don’ts

Apart from the ways to support someone with cancer discussed above here are some Dos and Don’ts for you to keep a check of.


  • Do let them know that you care for them.
  • Do help them with chores and support them while maintaining their lifestyle.
  • Do check with your friend or coworker before doing something for them.
  • Do keep them up to date with their school life, work-life, and personal life.
  • Do offer in concrete and specific ways, rather than keeping it vague for them as to when they can connect with you.
  • Do respect their decisions about the treatment and other aspects of life.
  • Do give them a warm hug and shower love.


  • Do not differentiate them based on their health condition.
  • Do not take away their job roles and responsibilities (it might make them feel they are not the right fit anymore). Rather ask them if they need extra assistance.
  • Do not tell them that you can feel exactly what they are going through.
  • Do not always meet them in a sad mood or remorse.
  • Do not be afraid to talk about their health and their condition. Just make sure you use the right phrases.
  • Do not take their silence personally. It often happens that a cancer patient may choose to be silent and by themselves.

Special Section: What to Say and What Not to Say to Someone with Cancer

    When a friend or family member is diagnosed with cancer, it is hard to know what to say. Sometimes our words can translate to a completely different meaning, leaving an individual feel overwhelmed. Although, that won’t be our intention in the first place our words do leave an impact on them. That is why it is crucial to pick the right words, connect with them, and offer warmth. We are sharing a guide with you that will make your communication better with your loved one who has been diagnosed with cancer.

    cancer communication

Supporting Someone With Cancer FAQs

Q1. What can you gift a friend who is diagnosed with cancer?

Gifting is a subtle gesture that shows that you care for the other person. If you are willing to show this gesture to a friend or family member who has been recently diagnosed with cancer, you may refer to the list we are sharing with you.

A novel, a positivity radiating plant, a motivational book, aroma diffuser, a mental health DIY kit, fidget toys, stress-busting items, a card, a journal, a video message from loved ones, balloons, their favorite food, a CD with his favorite movies or documentaries, or even a big warm hug will do.

Q2. How can I support a friend who is going through chemo?

The first thing that you can help your friend with is by making him feel loved and wanted just the way s/he was before the chemo. After chemo, their physical activities and interaction with the outer world might get restricted, so support them, be there with them from grocery shopping to appointments. They will be needing you the most then. And please at all costs don’t compare their treatment and recovery journey with others, no two cancers and treatment are the same.

Q3. How do I motivate a friend with cancer?

You can motivate a friend with cancer through your words and actions. Using the appropriate words helps them feel understood and loved despite what their medical condition is. And your actions will fill up for those words. Instead of just saying, “If you need help with something ping me” be there when they need you and help them out. You can also share encouraging stories with them (with positive endings). Apart from it, don’t make them feel indifferent, stand tall with them.

Aren’t these ways to help someone a loved one with cancer doable and easy. Then why not make it a part of your lifestyle now!

And not just this 4th of February but each day of your life work on your actions- big and small, make lasting, positive change. Because your one act can work as the beam of hope for someone who is fighting off cancer.

PS: Together all our actions matter! Keep doing your part.

Looking for more help on supporting someone with cancer? Drop your queries at and we will get back to you.

About The Author

Anjali Singh
Anjali Singh

Anjali Singh is a content curator in the field of Mental Health. She is currently done Ph.D. in Psychology. Her aim is to light up the world with positive vibes through her words, her idea of life is ‘Grow through what you go through’. Apart from this, she is a big-time pet lover.

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