A cancer survivor shares the five most effective ways you can support a loved one with cancer.

In 2004, Srivalli had her perfect life. At 24, she had recently been married and had a future full of plans with her husband. These plans ground to a halt in an instant when Srivalli discovered she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In a matter of days, her life had transformed from a young lady with the world at her feet, to one standing at the precipice of anxiety and fear.

Over one and a half years, Srivalli had six rounds of chemotherapy and eight rounds of radiation, which were not only physically but also mentally challenging for her.

Every year, Australians celebrate National Friendship. Today, we wanted to celebrate friendships that have sustained through one of the toughest experiences anyone can face: cancer.

Srivalli was lucky to have a close circle of family and friends that enveloped her with care and love when she needed it most. In her own words, “When you’re going through cancer, you have to let people know what you are feeling so they can help you. They may show you kindness, similarly, you will show someone else kindness and pay it forward. It is crucial to feel supported throughout your treatment, and even after.”

Each year, more than 130,000 Aussies hear the news that they have cancer, and this figure is rising. Whilst every day we make headway in ground-breaking treatments, the unspoken truth is that we aren’t great at managing the impact of cancer on our emotional health and wellbeing. Having a strong network of friends can be an important part of a person’s cancer journey but sometimes it can be hard to know what to do or say.

Image: supplied.

Here, Srivalli shares some of her top tips on how, as a friend, you can support a loved one with cancer.

1. Acknowledge the elephant in the room

When it comes to talking about cancer, you may feel lost for words, however, it’s important to acknowledge it. Talk about the type of cancer they have been diagnosed with, what stage it has reached and what their treatment plan is. You might need to do your homework so that you can be informed and be there each step of the way but most importantly, they need to feel that they have a space to vent their feelings and emotions to someone who will listen. The CancerAid app for Apple and Android presents this support in an easy way.

CancerAid helps cancer patients and their caregivers navigate through each stage of their cancer experience, receive care remotely and reduce the isolation that comes with diagnosis. The Champions feature, new to the app this year, encourages patients to nominate a friend or family member who can then keep in touch with their journey through the app. Communities like those on the app are critical to helping people with cancer. Just knowing that somewhere there is someone you can relate to on a similar journey makes you feel less isolated.


2. Talk about the big stuff

One of the biggest moments during cancer treatment is when the person goes through hair loss, and this can be an extremely emotional time. Don’t shy away from talking about this topic, but also don’t make it a big deal. Suggesting going shopping for wigs or scarfs to wrap around their heads can make a difficult stage much easier, and being there every step of the way through the thick and thin is invaluable.

3. Make small, fun plans together

Amidst the days of treatment, your friend will still want to feel like a normal person too and not just a cancer patient. Planning fun activities such as watching a movie together at home with a bag of popcorn and ginger beer in hand or making the most of sunny days, taking short strolls along the beach gives your friend something to look forward to. Always be aware of when they might be feeling treatment side-effects and get to know what makes them feel at their best.

4. Offer reliable help with routine chores

Cancer can leave people feeling overwhelmed not only by their treatment plan but also by the little jobs that still need to get done. Offering sincere, reliable help can take a massive weight off a friends shoulders. Practical jobs such as collecting or looking after the kids or pets, or doing the grocery shopping each week are little ways you can make a big difference.

5. Keep them in the loop

Keeping your friend in the loop with all the latest gossip and interesting news will bring normality to their world again. Making your friend feel involved by seeking their opinion on events and goings on in your life, especially when it’s not related to their treatment, will make them feel like they aren’t missing too much.

To find out more about CancerAid, you can find them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sally Obermeder is Lit From Within.