How to be a Friend

The DOs & DON’Ts of how to be a good friend to a person with cancer.

When someone you care for has cancer, it may be difficult to know exactly what to say or how to best offer your support. Below we provide some general DOs & DON’Ts to consider as you support your loved one to help them feel seen, heard, and cared for. 


…offer your presence often and be a good listener when they are ready to talk.

…talk about things other than their cancer. Say, “I love you” and be yourself.

…ask what you can do to help – be sincere and specific so that they know you mean it. If they can’t come up with anything, ask again in another week or so.

…use disposable dishware when delivering food items to eliminate the stress of having to return them.

…arrange a phone chain or MyLifeLine web support page to update friends on their condition, treatment, etc. (Be sure to get approval first!)

…offer to help by driving them to appointments, taking their kids to childcare, and doing housecleaning, gardening, cooking, shopping, yard work, or babysitting.

…respect how they choose to deal with their cancer.

…tell them about the support, education, and hope they can find at Cancer Support Community!


…tell them that everything’s going to be all right because you don’t know.

…tell them you know how they feel because you probably don’t.

…be afraid to admit that you don’t know what to say when you really are at a loss for words.

…be afraid to touch them, but don’t force it either.

…hesitate to call them or leave them a message to let them know you’re thinking of them.

…avoid the subject of cancer if that’s what they want to talk about.

…be afraid to talk about your life. Just because they’re sick it doesn’t always mean that they are not interested in hearing about you.

…discount the real feelings they may be having by telling them not to feel that way, not to worry, not to be scared, or not to cry.

…share advice unless asked.

…be afraid to talk about difficult subjects. Ask them how they’re feeling.