For Friends and Family

Meaningful emotional and practical support to provide to a cancer patient

Posted by Future Dreams Team on 11 July 2024

four people holding hands together

When a loved one is given a cancer diagnosis, it’s easy to feel helpless and like you’re not being useful at all. Nothing you do can change their diagnosis, after all, and it’s hard to know what to say and what not to say to a cancer patient.

We’ve asked members of the Future Dreams community to provide examples of the most meaningful support they received from family and friends while they were going through their breast cancer treatment. The examples of practical and emotional support the community contributed were beautiful, and we’re sharing them here in case you’re at a loss for what to do or how to help someone you love who has cancer. We also provide regular support groups for people who are supporting loved ones with a breast cancer diagnosis. Tap the link below to view our schedule, and read on for the advice from our community.

Meaningful practical support to give someone with breast cancer:

  1. “Things like picking our son up from school on chemo days. Cooking meals when I was too weak or hubby was working. Even just popping in for a cuppa and a chat.”
  2. “My husband sat through every single chemo, every single doctor’s appointment, every single scan. Never missed a single one, not even the yearly checkups now six years later.”
  3. “A friend brought me and my family dinner after every chemo session which took the stress out for one evening.”
  4. “The sweetest gesture was filling my fridge with chicken noodle soup when I couldn’t cook for myself.”
  5. “Practical help from school mums: having my daughter over after school/taking her along on days out during the summer holidays which was the middle of my chemo. Friends that messaged me to check in with me, that meant a lot especially when some didn’t bother.”
  6. “The food parcels after surgery and chemo. Always something on the doorstep. My husband when friends offered to drive and give him a break saying ‘thank you, but it’s my job to be there for her’ in a protective way.”
  7. “Regulars from my restaurant bringing me gifts of skin care, candles, chocolate & a hotel stay for me & my partner (it wasn’t just about me).”
  8. “My neighbours formed a cancer squad team to take turns to drive me to hospital for chemo and then pop in making sure I had a meal or a cuppa. I was on my own and it took a village literally for these acts of physical help!”
  9. “Friends taking me to radiotherapy and then for a cuppa afterwards.”

Meaningful emotional support to give someone with breast cancer:

  1. “Little voice notes saying hi and thinking of you, with rambling musings about life to acknowledge my treatment but also share normal things, funny stories.”
  2. “One friend of mine said ‘don’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, we can help carry it’. That has stuck with me forever.”
  3. “A friend who checked in on me throughout chemo always ending her messages with ‘no need to reply’. A small thing which made an unimaginable difference to me – not to worry about replying but just to simply receive her care and love.”
  4. “My daughter would always send me a positive message en route to chemo. That little message meant so much. My son on his 21st birthday asked me up onto the stage and his speech was about me telling all of his friends that I was his rock and his inspiration. I held it together on stage, then exited for a little leaky eye moment.”
  5. “My mum telling me I can always talk to her about my cancer, even though she’s still grieving my dad who we lost to renal cancer two years ago.”
  6. “Holding my hand.”
  7. “Receiving loads of pictures from my friends and family with their ‘Hector dehors!’ badges on chemo days. (My sister-in-law made those badges meaning ‘Hector -my cancer’s nickname- out!’). So although they all live abroad, they were there with me.”
  8. “Consistency of friends messaging just to check in with me – and the gift of their time, even if just to sit on the sofa with me doing nothing … .and continuing to do so all the way through my treatment so far. The contact has never dropped. And chatting on WhatsApp with me while I’m having my chemo. I might not be able to have them there in person but the chats are buzzing while I sit there so I never feel alone. Some even have my chemos in their diaries! I will be eternally grateful.”
  9. “My children just being there. They are all grown and live their own lives. But every time chemo was coming up, I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to go through it again and again. My daughter at the end of the phone while I was crying saying I couldn’t do it anymore, gently telling me I was strong and I could get through it even though I didn’t feel strong at all. She pulled me through along with my other children and grandchildren.”
  10. “My hospital treatment finished in 2021. I have one amazing friend who still continues to ask me how I’m getting on. It’s often after active treatment you really appreciate someone acknowledging what you’ve been through and may still be struggling with.”
  11. “I found different people offered different things. Some friends were emotionally able to support me while others were able to support me in practical ways like helping with child care or taking me to appointments. The little thoughtful gifts and the checking in were often received at the times I needed them the most. I was grateful for all of it!”

Further information

Future Dreams hold a range of support groups, classes, workshops and events to help you and your carers during your breast cancer diagnosis. These are held both online and in person at the London-based Future Dreams House. To see what’s on offer and to book your place, see here.

To return to the homepage of our Information Hub, click here where you can access more helpful information, practical advice, personal stories and more.

July 2024

Next review date July 2027

The information and content provided on this page has been written from a patient’s perspective then reviewed by a breast care nurse. It is intended for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice. Please contact your medical team for advice on anything covered in this article and/or in relation to your personal situation. 


Sylvie Henry and Danielle Leslie founders of Future Dreams breast cancer support
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Sylvie and Danielle began Future Dreams with just £100 in 2008. They believed nobody should face breast cancer alone.  Their legacy lives on in Future Dreams House.  We couldn’t continue to fund support services for those touched by breast cancer, raise awareness of breast cancer and promote early diagnosis and advance research into secondary breast cancer without your help. Please consider partnering with us or making a donation.

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