How do I tell my friends about my cancer diagnosis?

Breaking the news to your friends can be tough. It’ll mean dealing with their reactions on top of the emotions you’re already feeling. There’s no real way to know how they’ll respond. They might be amazing and super supportive. Or they could disappoint you.

How do I tell them?

The main thing to remember is that there’s no right or wrong way to go about this. You could approach them directly, ask someone to tell them on your behalf, or you may not want to tell anyone at this stage – and that’s fine. Ultimately, it’s your choice and good friends will always respect this.

What do I tell them?

However much you want to. Remember that you’re in control of how much you wish to share about your cancer and treatment. Don’t be afraid to say if you’d rather not go into detail about some things.

If they’re keen to get informed, link them to our guide for friends. It will help them to understand what you’re up against, practical things they can do to help you, and how to get support for themselves.

A guide for your friend

Using social media

This might seem like an effective way to spread the news to your friendship network. However, it’s worth thinking about this carefully first and considering whether there’s anyone close to you who might be upset to find out in this way.

Also, once you’ve put it out there in public, it opens up a platform for people to make contact and ask questions. This may not be something you feel like dealing with at the moment.

Dealing with negative reactions

When it comes to cancer, people sometimes respond in ways we don’t expect. While some will be supportive and understanding, others may need time to come to terms with the situation. This can feel hurtful, especially if it seems like they’re avoiding you or the subject, but chances are it’s because they don’t know what to do or say.

To help with this, you might want to make the first contact. Let them know that you’re going through a tough time and that you really need them right now. Then give them a chance to process the news. Ultimately, your friends will recognise it took courage for you to speak up, while all the reasons you get along in the first place remain unchanged.

Reach out to the people you want to and be honest and say how you will need them. Then if they let you down, it’s not you, its them, they just can’t deal with it.

Changes to friendships

You might find that some friendships become even more important. Having people around that you can count on for a laugh and a chat might just be what you need. But it’s also easy to become distanced. Your new routine can make it tricky to keep in touch in the same way.

Making the effort to be in regular contact with friends and telling people again and again what’s been happening can be draining. You won’t always know the latest news and it may seem as though some friends are moving on with their lives. It might also be that you naturally drift apart as your experiences could mean you just don’t connect with people in the same way.

It’s normal for friendships to come and go. What matters is that you stay connected with the friends you value.

Friends who ‘get it’

You might find it helpful to meet other young people who’ve experienced cancer. Our partner charities Teens Unite and Alike specialise in helping young people with cancer connect with others who understand, through support groups, fun events and an app: 

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