What To Say To A Friend Who’s Been Diagnosed With Cancer



Four Steps To Supporting Someone Diagnosed with Cancer

How can you support someone who has been impacted by cancer? Regardless, if someone you know has been diagnosed they are going to need support. This person could be a friend, family member, or someone you just met. Everyone needs support and with the right knowledge you could be prepared to help anyone on their cancer journey. There are a few steps to consider before jumping in.

Processing Your Feelings

First, “Process your own feelings beforehand. Learning that a friend has cancer can be difficult news to hear. Take time to acknowledge and cope with your own emotions about the diagnosis before you see him or her. This way, you can keep the focus on your friend.” (Cancer.net)two friends holding hands

Make them Feel Comfortable

Second, make them feel comfortable with sharing their story. This can include allowing them to share everything that is on their mind and giving them your undivided attention. Try to come into the conversation already having the knowledge necessary about the diagnosis so they do not have to re-share the scary details with you. Another way to make them feel comfortable is the setting. If you decide to meet in person make sure the setting is private and familiar. Lastly, make sure you are actively listening. Making eye contact, body language, and not interrupting can make for a much more comfortable environment for them to share their story.

Share Your Story

Third, sharing your own story can greatly benefit the person. “Sharing your personal cancer story with patients has many benefits, from basic support and advice to life-preserving perspectives” (Owsinski). By being willing and open to share your own story they might be more open and trusting to share their own story.  “Storytelling is a human trait, and the bottom line is human connection. You can change another patient’s life simply by talking about yours.” (Owsinski).Two Friends outside discussing cancer diagnosis

Be Forthcoming

Fourth, if you are able to offer support be specific in what you are able to offer. Often times it is hard for people to ask for what they need. If you can offer up the support it will be easier for them to say yes. For example, if you are able to bring meals to the family every Wednesday, mention that and see if that is something they would enjoy. If you’re able to drive their kids to/from school, offer it up. Make it comfortable for them to accept your help and support.


Being a support for someone who is experiencing trauma through their own or through a loved ones cancer can be a beautiful thing. Just keep in mind that you want to be open and caring and let them have the platform they need to share openly. Processing your feelings beforehand, making them feel comfortable sharing, sharing your own story, and being specific with your support can make a world of difference when discussing someone’s cancer journey.

two friends comforting each other in time of need

Share Your Cancer Story with Walk With Sally

At Walk With Sally we encourage everyone to share their stories and personal experience with cancer. At our Mentor Training we begin the day with everyone sharing their experience. Each person is given undivided attention and support. Once they are done sharing we remember each family member or friend by stating their name and writing it on our “Who’s Your Sally” wall for everyone to see. By sharing our stories everyone knows they are connected to one another on a level they otherwise would not have known. In the end Walk With Sally’s goal is to make the “C” word a little less scary for people to talk about.


If you are interested in becoming a mentor for a child who has been impacted by cancer, email us at [email protected] and someone will get back to you right away.


For more details about discussing cancer diagnosis please see the links below.