Friends can be amazing and supportive. But cancer can shake even the strongest friendship. You may lose some friends, and gain some new ones.

You will go through a lot of changes because of cancer – like being in hospital a lot, not being able to do the same things you used to, and maybe acting or looking different. Your friends might find this difficult to deal with, and not be there for you as much as you’d like.

Maybe you haven’t told some friends yet because you’re worried about how they will react. But telling them about your cancer and how you’re feeling can be a huge relief and your friends can be a great source of support.

Tips for talking to your friends about cancer
  • Make the first move.
    Your friends may be scared to say the wrong thing or to ask you a question. Often they will just say nothing – not because they don’t care, but more that they just don’t know what to say. As unfair as it seems, you may have to start the ball rolling.
  • Remember they don’t mean to upset or annoy you.
    Sometimes your friends will say stuff that really annoys you and makes you angry. This can be really hard. But it’s usually because they don’t understand.
  • Be prepared for strange questions.
    Remember all the things that you didn’t know before all this started? Your friends are in the same situation now. If there are questions you can’t or don’t want to answer, just let your friends know that you don’t feel like talking right now.
  • Remember they have their own lives.
    It may seem that your friends are just getting on with their lives without you and you feel left out. Try not to be resentful, and find ways to stay connected.
  • Do some of the things you did together before cancer.
    Try to stay in touch and let your friends know that you still want to be part of what’s going on, even if you can’t always go out and do the same things.
  • Tell them where to go (in a nice way!).
    Send them a link to this website where they can read about what you’re going through.

Making (and losing) friends

Common experiences often lead to new friendships. You may find it really helpful to connect with other young people who have lived through the same things you’re going through. Lots of young people say this is the best support, because only other young people with cancer truly understand.

Ask your YCS team about peer support groups, programs and online communities where you can meet young people who’ve been through similar experiences to you.

You may also lose some friends along the way. Not all your friends will be able to handle it. Some may even bully or exclude you, or say insensitive things, so you might decide to cut them off. Having positive people in your life is important at this time.