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Partners, relatives, carers or friends of someone who has cancer will have also have a variety of emotions such as uncertainty, loneliness and isolation|, denial, anger, and possibly anxiety or depression|.
You may feel that you should keep your emotions hidden from the person who is ill. But acknowledging your feelings and talking to others can help you feel stronger. This in turn will mean you are more able to support the person who has cancer.
A person who has cancer will probably be dealing with a variety of emotions. You can help by listening carefully to what they have to say. Acknowledging their feelings is important. For example, if they say they feel worried, show that you understand rather than trying to tell them everything will be fine.
Of course, you’ll have your own feelings and emotions to deal with. It will help if you’re honest about how you feel. You can then find ways of dealing with things together.
If someone is very anxious or depressed, it can be difficult to live with or help them.
A normally outgoing, sociable person may become someone who is argumentative, irritable or withdrawn, and refuses to talk to you. A person who is depressed may not feel up to going out, or may lack the energy to do even simple activities at home. Yet people with depression don’t often look ill. People outside their family and close friends may not realise how much strain they are under. They may not offer as much help as they would if they knew what the person was really going through.
It’s important to remember that these changes are usually temporary, and that when the anxiety or depression improves, you‘ll often find that the person returns to their old self.
Don’t feel you have to offer solutions or sort out the other person’s problems. Just being there, listening, caring and offering a shoulder to cry on may be the most helpful thing you can do. The feelings and emotions that occur will not last forever, and you can give reassurance that they will improve with time.
Encourage the person to talk through their feelings. Maybe try some of the activities in our self-help| section. This may improve their mood without any outside help.
If you feel that someone urgently needs help - for example, if they’re suicidal or so depressed that they aren’t eating or looking after themselves properly - try to persuade them to talk to their doctor. Offer to go to the surgery with them if they feel this would help. If they refuse to seek help, you can talk to their doctor and see what they can do to help.
Our section on how to talk to someone with cancer| may help you to feel more confident when speaking to someone about their cancer.
In order for you to be able to support someone who is anxious or depressed, it’s important to take good care of yourself. The following suggestions may help:
Our cancer support specialists| can help you find suitable self-help and support groups near you. If you’re finding your emotions hard to cope with, or you’re finding it difficult to carry out everyday tasks, you should seek professional help|.
Content last reviewed: 1 May 2012
Next planned review: 2014
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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