The best things you can do when your friend is diagnosed with cancer 90



View Profile

Today is one of the most poignant days on our calendar – Daffodil Day. It might sound like a simple concept but the simple gesture of displaying that distinctive yellow flower can really mean so much in a time of need.

When a friend is diagnosed with cancer, there can be panic. You have to put on the brave face often as much as they do, as seeing someone go through the hardest time of their lives is harrowing. But just being there is often more than that person could ask for. One such example happened to me this week: a good friend of mine who I had seen just hours earlier said she needed to tell me something urgently.

She had just found out she had stage two bowel cancer – how could this be? Carol was 63 and a beautiful, happy and healthy single woman with no signs of ill help.

I couldn’t help but fret about just how alone Norma must have felt in that moment. I wanted to help but couldn’t find the right words. I wanted to say everything would be OK but how could I be sure? I had read a news article on a possible cure for several types of cancers just days ago, surely that would cheer her up. No, that would depress her. I need to take her mind off it.

So I began searching online and found thousands of ways I could commit to helping out my dear friend. It has become apparent that every single Australian will have their life touched by cancer in one way or another, so I thought that this advice could be useful for someone else too.

Six practical ways to help a friend with cancer

Help with shopping: Something as small as shopping can be so difficult when you’re drained, tired and generally unwell. Don’t only volunteer to do the shopping, offer to take them. Sometimes a day out doing something they would do regardless of illness is all they need to be happy so always give them the option. Help them with grocery shopping and special occasion shopping.

Drive them to appointments: The medical appointments begin to stack up as anyone who has lived with cancer will know. If you’re alone, this can be one of the hardest parts of dealing with everything, is not having the human support at the most difficult times. Take them for lunch or a coffee after appointments too and it might brighten their outlook.

Call a few times a week and just check up on them: Patients can suffer from isolation and sadness by not having anyone to talk to about their fears and feelings. Let them know you are there for them and they’ll feel more comfortable and more supported.

Assist with household duties: Help them out with things like managing their mail, their bills, their appointments and their calendar. Just offering to do tasks like posting letters, setting them up with online bill payments or driving them to events you are both attending can be a huge help. Even offering to do the vacuuming or clean the bathroom and changing sheets can be a help to those who are feeling weak.

Help to keep the fun in their life: Take them to the movies and out to dinner if it makes them happy. Keep doing the little things that uplift them and help to maintain the feeling of “normal” through their life.

Share some humour: One of the more interesting and I have to say hilarious things I found were these tongue-in-cheek cancer cards. Cancer survivor Emily McDowell made it her mission to change the stigma and awkwardness around talking to friends with cancer, and said she hopes her cards can say the things people want to, without them actually having to do it.

All cards are available for purchase via


How have you helped your friends and family when they were struggling? Or, if you have battled cancer before, what were the most helpful things done for you? Tell us in the comments… 

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I have bought my daffodills.
    I once had a friend who was diagnosed with cancer come to tell me before anyone else, when I asked why she said she wanted to have an honest open conversation with someone and be able to speak openly about her fears. So I guess being open is the best way as its life and we all run the risk of life and what it brings with it ..good or bad

  2. My husband at that time had 2 questions that he wanted me to ask my gynacologist, regarding my cervical cancer. 1) What did I do to cause this? Meaning me, and 2) Could he catch it. No support from him. That’s why he is my ex husband. When he said that, I could hear a door in my heart close.

    7 REPLY
    • Janice. We don’t know each other but I am sending my best wishes to you hoping you are well. I lost my husband to cancer four years ago. I am pleased to hear you are happily remarried. Keep well and stay happy.

    • Thanl ypu MarleneBirdand Linda Carley. Ypu are very kind. I am a survivor. But so many family and friends aren’t. I love each day, each hour. Thank you for your kind words. You are amazing women.

    • Pleased to hear you wiped that man out of your life ! Along with the cancer
      Hope there both in the gutter where they belong

    • So sorry that you had to go through that alone Janice. It was a horrid way to learn that your husband was a selfish asshole. Glad to hear your doing well and that he is no longer in your life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *