Cancer support – how family and friends can help offer support

Hands joined holding Breast Cancer Ribbon

Cancer rips apart your whole world, it affects not only the patient but their entire family unit too, and it doesn’t discriminate either with no rule of thumb as to who it will strike next.

When a family member first receives their diagnosis it can be very hard for all to digest, we have been there ourselves when my wonderful Mother-in-Law was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Disbelief, shock and anger are some of the first things you experience and your loved one will need all the support they can get during this time, as well as throughout their treatment.

Research into the type of cancer they have may be your first port of call, there are many websites that give you a lot of knowledge about different types of cancers, The LOC being one of these.

Anne, Phil and Mark

As you know, this is a subject very close to my heart and we sadly lost my Mother-in-Law in 2015, my wonderful Brother-in-Law has a place in the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon and is raising money for The hospice provided amazing end of life care to Anne at the end of her brave battle with cancer in 2015.

Here is Mark’s fund fundraising story:

In July, 2015, St Clare Hospice supported my mum’s end of life care at the end of her brave battle with cancer. The fact that Gill from St Clare Hospice came to care for mum in my parents’ house, and gave mum the dignity of dying in her own bed meant a lot to our family, and I am delighted to be able to give back a tiny amount by running the marathon in support of this wonderful charity.

St Clare’s is almost entirely funded by charitable donations, and I am grateful for any money you can spare to help them continue to support adults with life-limiting illnesses, their families and carers.

With your support, I would love to reach the target of £3,750, because this is the amount that could pay for a specialist pressure relieving mattress, vital for ensuring patients are comfortable in bed, preventing pressure ulcers and bed sores, and helping the team at St Clare to provide the best care possible.

He is working hard towards his training goal and we are all very proud of Mark. If you would consider donating to his fundraising you can do so here.

Fundraising page for London Marathon

There are some things you can do for the patient to offer support and ease things for them

Offer Help

They probably won’t like to ask for it but help is needed and lots of it. Instead of waiting to be asked for lifts to appointments, help with the shopping or even a little help around the home just offer.

People, in general, don’t like to feel they are burdening us with their problems so leave asking for help until the last minute, in turn wearing themselves out unnecessarily – if you are going shopping offer to get theirs too or to take them, the company is nice for you both and its one less thing they will have to worry about, you could even offer to show them how to do an internet food shop if they would prefer to do it themselves and isn’t something they already do.

Making extra meals that can be frozen and re-heated will also be a great help.

Attend appointments

It can be too much to take in at times so going alongside the patient to appointments means you can both listen to the doctors/consultants, take notes if you like to help ensure no important information is missed out or overlooked.

During treatment appointments, they will be there for a long time and having a friendly face around will stop them becoming bored, give them some physical and emotional support and help to take their minds off of things to a certain extent.

Make up care packages for during their treatment

There will be lots of hospital appointments for Chemo and Radiation Therapy, these are long appointments and things to do to help take the patients minds off of the treatment can sometimes help. Things you could pack include:

  • Books/magazines to read
  • Colouring books
  • Puzzle books
  • Tablet with movies/TV shows pre-loaded
  • Audiobooks
  • Crafts if they do them – Knitting/Crochet
  • Water
  • Snacks

For after treatment

The treatment will affect everyone differently, but it certainly can make you very poorly. A few treats and things which can ease things a little are:

  • Vaseline/Lip balm
  • Ice lollies/ice chips
  • Neck pillow
  • Handwarmer
  • Nice blanket
  • Sea bands to help with nausea – they may not be allowed certain medicines so these are drug-free
  • Peppermint Tea
  • Mints to suck
  • Headscarves/hat

Financial Help

No one likes to admit that things are hard but they will be. There will be appointments to attend, travelling to and from the hospital, parking to pay, work missed for patients and relatives.

Of course, during their treatment, they won’t be working but as we know bills still need paying and we aren’t all in the position of having a savings account ready for these situations.

Sites like Just Giving allow friends and family to donate money which can go straight to the family to use as they need it.


No one likes to think of the worse but getting affairs in order will need doing at some point, for all of us – When I had the kids making a Will was one of my main priories and something everyone really should do.

I have also written about the importance of having medical power of attorney in place for your loved ones – something we learnt the hard way was important to do.

Other help available

There are many charities and organisations which are there to help not only support cancer patients but their families too – they can help you to understand the treatments, offer support and also help you to gain access to other support and aid available, some of these you won’t even know are available to you as you’ve never had to access them previously.


“Collaborative post”

6 thoughts on “Cancer support – how family and friends can help offer support

  1. My dad passed away in April from Cancer, Its a horrible disease that no one should suffer from. It was hard seeing my mum and younger brother caring for my dad at home in his last few weeks. My dad didn’t want to go into hospital so we all respected his wishes. He had bowel cancer nearly 3 years ago and had an operation to remove it, he was 86 at the time so didn’t want any after treatment like chemo or radiotherapy. We all knew he had less than 5 years to live after the operation but he lived those last couple of years to the full. I was sad that he passed away 3 days before my daughter was born and never got the chance to meet her. His last couple of days was made comfortable by a lovely Macmillan nurse who was there for my mum as well. Support in those times is very important xx

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