Finding the support you need from others involves understanding what type of support you need, whom may be able to support you, how they could support you and when their support would be most helpful.
Having a sense of what you would find helpful and letting others know what you need is a key part of this process.
Cancer not only affects the person with the diagnosis of cancer but also family and friends. Your family and friends are also likely to need support too. Having a clear sense of your support needs and how best to meet these needs can be helpful for everyone.
Sharing information about your diagnosis and treatment with family and friends can be really hard for many reasons. It is important that you are able to do this in a way that feels right for you.
If family or friends have been aware that you are waiting for news they may be expecting to hear from you. This could leave you feeling pressured to share information before you feel ready. Think about what information you feel comfortable sharing.
Think about who you feel comfortable sharing information with. Some people find it helpful to nominate a trusted family member or friend during active treatment who can share agreed information with others.
Often people worry about the responses of others and want to protect their family and loved ones, which is completely understandable. However, it can get in the way of you talking to them and could leave you feeling more alone with your struggles.
Sharing your experiences can help generate support from others which may help you manage challenges that lay ahead.
There may be particular concerns about sharing information with children and teenagers – wanting to protect them and avoid their distress is understandable. Children will often sense there is a problem and therefore findings ways to discuss this with them will be important.
Your cancer diagnosis and treatment will have a psychological impact on your family and friends. People will respond in different ways and you may be able to predict how certain family members and friends will react.
You may be surprised by how some people react and by how supported you feel. It is understandable that you would be concerned about the wellbeing of your family and friends.
However, it is also important to prioritise your own emotional and support needs at this time. You will not be able to control how family or friends manage their feelings. However, you can control how you manage your wellbeing. Part of this involves letting others know what support you do or do not need.
Knowing support available for family or friends, if needed, can make it easier to focus on meeting your own support needs.
Support is available from the following organisations:
Cancer and its treatment can cause changes in your relationships with spouses/partners, children, wider family, friendships and colleagues. The changes that you experience will likely vary based on the nature of your relationships.
Some couples find that it can lead them to connect in a way they have not done before. For other couples, particularly where there are pre-existing problems, the stress of the situation can put an additional strain on the relationship. Roles and responsibilities can change, as well as changes in the level of emotional and physical intimacy, which can feel difficult to adjust to. If you are noticing difficulties in your relationship it can be helpful to seek support. Your healthcare team will be able to signpost you if you want to explore this.
Relationships with other family and friends might change and will likely depend on the type of relationship you had. Family and friends often want to offer support in some way, so it might be helpful to think about the type of support you want from them and how much. This will help you to elicit the type of support you want (e.g. emotional, social, practical etc.) and ensure that this meets your needs and does not become overbearing.
Others may feel overwhelmed by your news and might not offer the support you would have anticipated, which can be upsetting. They might not know what to say or do, or perhaps it brings up painful memories for them. It does not necessarily reflect their feelings towards you or how much they care about you, but it can be painful not to receive the care you would have hoped for.
It might feel particularly challenging to manage relationships with your children. Depending on the age of your children the challenges are likely to vary. Balancing being a parent and dealing with cancer can be exhausting. You may find that you need support to care for them and information about support can be found on the Macmillan website.
For children that are older, they might want to offer care and support and this transition in your relationship can feel particularly difficult.
It is common for family members or friends to experience difficulty understanding the challenges you are experiencing and how you may be feeling. It can be helpful to talk to other people who are in a similar situation to you who may share similar experiences.
In addition, talking to people outside of your family can feel easier for some people as you may feel better able to share your feelings and shared experiences without worrying about protecting other’s feelings.
Any form of support is only as helpful as you find it. If you choose to access peer support,
it is important to regularly ask yourself whether the support is helpful and what you currently need.
Being diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment will often bring up lots of emotions. Whilst our emotions help us to navigate life and makes sense of our world, at times they can feel overwhelming and can impact on how we are able to function.
Allow yourself to lean into how you are feeling. Use strategies that help manage your feelings if they overwhelm you. If you notice you are feeling overwhelmed, then some of these strategies might help.
For some, talking to their friends and family about their emotions helps, whereas others can find it difficult. There is no right or wrong way to manage. If it feels difficult to talk about your emotions, then it might helpful to let family members know how they can support you in other ways and what you need from them. This might be simple things like needing some time to yourself, needing support and encouragement to leave the house, or wanting a hug from them.
Healthcare professionals involved in your care will be able to offer support or signpost you to relevant people or agencies that can offer further support. For some people it can feel really difficult to ask for help, particularly if you are used to trying to deal with problems alone. If you are able to reach out then you can be supported to find ways help you navigate the challenges you are facing.
The advice on these pages is designed to help you prepare for the treatment ahead and support you through to recovery.
If you need further advice and support please discuss this with your key worker or healthcare professional.
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