Friday 30th July 2021
- New research reveals 55% find friends reduce contact after their cancer diagnosis, and 40% find friends stop contacting them completely
- Teenage Cancer Trust campaign starring 20 young people affected by cancer aims to tackle issue
- Campaign launches on International Day of Friendship on 30 July, watch the campaign film here.
Nearly half (49%) of those surveyed believe that awkwardness around what to say or do when they were diagnosed was the reason friends fell out of touch, and more than a third (37%) felt it was because their friends didn’t think that they could include them in their social plans.
To help tackle the issue, young people affected by cancer are sharing their experiences and tips on how to support friends as part of Teenage Cancer Trust’s new Friendship and Cancer campaign. Those taking part hope that sharing their experiences will help stop cancer getting in the way of friendships for others.
Cerys Davies, 16, from Stafford, who was diagnosed with bone cancer aged 13, said: “When I was diagnosed with cancer the friendship group that I was in completely disappeared. I didn’t hear from any of them or anybody else in my year at school.
“Three months into treatment I went back into school to do a talk, and everyone hugged me, and I just found it really false as nobody had talked to me for all that time.
“Since then, a couple of people have told me that because you don’t really expect someone my age to get cancer, and they didn’t really understand what was happening, and they didn’t know what to say or do.
“Now I speak out in assemblies to help other people.”
On her advice on how to be a good friend to somebody with cancer, Cerys adds:
“Send messages to see how they are doing – that always means a lot as it shows that you are thinking of them.”
Helen Veitch, Head of Youth Support Coordinators, Teenage Cancer Trust, said: “It is totally understandable to feel scared when your friend has cancer, and not know what to say or do, or be afraid of saying the wrong thing or asking the wrong question.
“But not contacting your friend as much, or not getting in touch at all because you feel awkward or frightened, can feel to your friend like you’ve forgotten or even abandoned them at a time when they really need you.
“Speak to them about how you are feeling, ask how you can help them out, and find out more about how you can support them on the Teenage Cancer Trust website.”
Visit www.teenagecancertrust.org/friends for tips from young people on how to be a good friend to someone with cancer.
Tips from young people involved in the campaign include:
- Charlie Aldred, 20, from Bedworth – “Don’t stop inviting your friend out to things – even if they can’t come it’s nice to get an invite and feel involved!”
- Rian Harvey, 21, Southampton - “The person you see in that hospital bed is the same person you have spent years of your life with. You don't need to treat them any differently. Go in, have a laugh, and bring normality back to a world that is currently feeling more abnormal than ever.”
- Jake Adams, 21, Sunderland - “When I was being treated, people didn’t really know what to talk about with me. I think asking how someone is feeling, creating conversations, trying to get a friend with cancer to open up is massive for their mental health.”
- Sophie Wheldon, 23, Birmingham - “Instead of saying ‘if I can do anything to help let me know’, ask about specific things they might need help with like walking their dog or picking something up from the shops for them. Small acts of kindness mean a lot.”
- Ellie Brown, 24, Edinburgh - “One of my friends was a total rockstar and sent me little packages every two weeks when I had my chemo. It was lovely that she remembered when it was and timed things. It was random things like magazine clippings of recipes she knew I liked, stories, or postcards. It put a smile on my face as it was so personal.”
- Kathryn Rodwell, 23, North Wales - “If you are wanting to reach out to someone with cancer, just do it. Rip that band aid off and do it. It is better to do it now then even further down the line. It is not too late.”
Helen adds: “The pandemic has been especially hard on young people with cancer; many have had to isolate at home and visitors to hospital have been restricted. But if your friend has cancer there are still plenty of ways that you can show you care and stay in touch.”
Teenage Cancer Trust funds 28 units in NHS hospitals across the UK where young people with cancer aged 13-24 are treated alongside others their own age. Here, they get the consistent, sensitive, individual nursing care and support they need, and often forge new friendships with others who understand what they are going through.
Teenage Cancer Trust’s nurses and Youth Support Coordinators also run events for young people to help reduce isolation and loneliness, and an online community, Connect, is also being rolled out across the UK for young people going through or recovering from cancer.
For more information and further interviews with a charity spokesperson or a young person, please contact:
For out of hours media enquiries call 0757 225 1265.
Notes to Editor
- You can view embed and download the campaign ‘top tips’ film here. And a longer edit suitable for broadcast media can be found here.
- Images of the young people referenced in this press release can be downloaded here.
- *A total of 121 young people with cancer took part in the research referenced in the press release, an online survey that was live between March and April 2021.
About Teenage Cancer Trust
- Every day, seven young people in the UK aged 13 to 24 hear the words "you have cancer".
- Teenage Cancer Trust puts young people in the best possible place, physically, mentally and emotionally, for their cancer treatment and beyond.
- We do it through our expert nurses, support teams, and hospital units. And we're the only UK charity dedicated to providing this specialised nursing care and support.
- Teenage Cancer Trust is a registered charity: 1062559 (England & Wales), SC039757 (Scotland).