The impact of cancer on friendships

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Your friends may be a source of support while your child is going through cancer treatment. Discover how your friendships may change during this time and how you can maintain communication.

Key points

  • Keep a list of tasks friends can help you with so you are prepared when someone reaches out to ask how they can support you.
  • Don't be afraid to reach out and ask for help; be specific and let them know what you need.

During the difficult times when your teenager has cancer, your friends can be an invaluable source of help. They can offer humour, as well as practical and emotional support. Spending time with them can help you relieve stress and feel a bit more normal, even if only for a little while.

Changing relationships

You will probably find that some of your friends will surprise you with the amount of caring and support they demonstrate. You may also be disappointed or hurt when other friends are unable to meet your needs and/or expectations through this difficult time. Cancer is frightening and can be a difficult subject for some people to talk about. Your friends may struggle with wanting to help but may not know what to say, and may be nervous of doing or saying something wrong. Sometimes this discomfort can lead to friends becoming more distant, possibly leaving you feeling isolated and hurt.

Keep communication lines open

It can be hard for friends to reach out to you, and it can also be hard for you to reach out to friends. You may find that you receive offers of help that are difficult to accept or that aren’t really meaningful such as, "Call me anytime, if you need anything." Many times, friends don’t know what you need, so they don’t know how to offer meaningful help. At the same time, it can be difficult for you to guide your friends in how to best support you. Make a list of things, even simple things, you can keep on hand so that you have a number of tasks for people to do when they offer their help. Be sure to also let your friends know how much their support means to you when they do something you appreciate, even if it is something small like sending you a supportive email. This will encourage them to continue to support you in the future.

How to help your friends help you

Many friends will find it helpful to be given some guidance on how to best support and help you. Some resources that can be helpful for friends can be found on the resource page at the end of this session. When friends offer to help, be specific and let them know what you need. The next section offers suggestions for setting up a communication system to keep your friends informed about how your teen is doing and the kind of support you or your family would appreciate.

Last updated: September 3rd 2019