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

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.

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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.

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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…