Quick Reference Page For Supporters; What to Say and Do

This page is a very quick reference for you, as a supporter of someone who has been diagnosed with cancer.

What should you say and do when you hear this devastating news? If you are worried about the ‘right’ thing to say and do, then read on for a very quick guide which should help you navigate this.

If you want more comprehensive tips, then read The UpLift Kit’s blog post on this topic.


What Do I Say?

All you have to say is, something.

The fact that you are saying something is the most important thing. Just reaching out and letting them know you are there for them, is all they really need right now. 

I know how hard it can be to find the right words sometimes, and how that can prevent you from reaching out. So here are a few suggestions for you to start the conversation.

  • I am so sorry that this is happening to you.
  • I don't know what to say, but you are loved, and I am here for you.
  • What can I do to help you?


What Can I Do?

  1. Be present for them.
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
  3. During lockdown - send a text, make a phone call, send a card. After lockdown and vaccines - offer to drive them to appointments, attend appointments with them, do their grocery shopping, do a pharmacy run, go for walks with them. 
  4. Listen actively to them so they know they are being heard.
  5. Acknowledge their emotions.
  6. Remind them that they are loved.
  7. Try not to take their silences personally - if someone does not reply to a message or answer a phone call, send them a message letting them know that you are just thinking of them. Don't give up - keep sending little messages of support and love. As they battle through their darkest days, they will feel your support and encouragement and it will make all the difference. 

It can be really hard to support someone through their cancer journey. But try to remember that there are dark days they will have to battle, this is their journey.

In recent times it has been even harder to support loved ones, but we can still connect and support each other in different ways. 

Support and Uplift them! 


As a supporter, there are resources out there for you too. 

Consider listening to or reading Brené Brown. She speaks on the topic of not knowing what to say and procrastination. We're all familiar with this concept, because we've all been there. There is no right thing to say. It is never too late to reach out. But it is better if you can reach out honestly without fear of not knowing the right thing to say. Start with 'I don't know what to say'. 

Listen and subscribe to The Answers for Cancers Podcast. This podcast is run by two Irish oncology nurses from the Mater, and it is an excellent resource for everyone going through the cancer journey. Their episodes are extremely informative and helpful at breaking down cancer for everyone. 

Visit the Irish Cancer Society website. It's full of resources and advice for everyone. 

Consider counselling for yourself. Especially if you are a close supporter. Don't be afraid to seek help for yourself. You can turn up for them, by turning up for yourself first. Cancer is hard for everyone to navigate.

For more comprehensive tips, read the full blog post on what to say and do as a supporter of someone diagnosed with cancer.