Keeping in touch

There are many different ways to keep in touch with your friend or relative. Ask them how they would like you to keep in touch. You could:

  • visit them
  • send them messages in cards, notes, texts or emails
  • phone them
  • talk to them on social media.

If you decide to write but aren’t sure what to say, you could try something like: ‘I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care.’ or ‘If you would like to talk about it, I’m here.’

You could buy your relative or friend a small gift. It could be something practical or just something to make them laugh.

If they are having treatment they may be tired, so try to keep communication short during these times. It’s also a good idea to check they are up to it before visiting.

Keep inviting them along to social events as they will appreciate being asked even if they can’t always make it.

Different ways of keeping in touch

There are many ways to keep in touch and to let your relative or friend know they are important to you. These can include:

  • visiting them
  • sending notes, cards, texts and emails
  • making phone calls
  • talking to them on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

You can ask your relative or friend what they prefer.

During and after cancer treatment, people may have good days and bad days. There may be times when your relative or friend’s energy levels are low. If they are having treatment or likely to be tired, try to keep phone calls and letters short. It’s also good to call before you visit to ask if they are feeling well enough to see you.

Remember to be understanding if your relative or friend doesn’t always feel able to see you or has to change plans at the last minute.

Keep sending invites

Remember to keep inviting your relative or friend to take part in social events and plans, just like you did before they had cancer. Even if they don’t feel up to coming, it’s always nice to be asked. Let them be the one to decide if they cannot make it.

When my friend has been in hospital, I text her often to ask how she is. She says it’s good to hear things like “Don’t worry about replying” or “Get in touch when you can“ because she doesn’t feel pressured to reply straight away.


If your friend is having treatment, please don’t forget about them. Keep sending invites, as your plans may fall on their “good day”. Being thought of counts for a lot!


Notes and cards

Many people worry about what to write. But you don’t have to come up with something deeply meaningful. If it’s the first time you’ve written to your relative or friend since their diagnosis, acknowledge what’s happened and let them know you care.

If you’re struggling to find words, you could try something like:

  • ‘I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care.’
  • ‘I’m sorry to hear that you are going through this.’
  • ‘How are you doing?’
  • ‘If you would like to talk about it, I’m here.’
  • ‘I’ll keep you in my thoughts.’

If your relative or friend has internet access, you may wish to send them an electronic card (eCard). An eCard is a digital greeting card or postcard which you can create and send online to someone’s email address. We have a range of free eCards.


These don’t have to be expensive. It really is the thought that counts. Look for small, practical things your relative or friend may need or enjoy. Think about what might make their day a little better. Fun things that may make them laugh or smile are good too.

Examples of gifts you could buy include:

  • magazines, DVDs, audio and easy-reading books
  • soft bed socks
  • toiletries such as lip balm, hand cream or body lotion
  • favourite foods or snacks
  • a special pillow or a heating pad
  • photos of family members or friends.

My friends sent me little gifts like toy rabbits, hearts to hang on the wall, and hand cream for my dry skin. It reminded me I was in their thoughts.


Calling and messaging

Phone calls

Phone calls are a great way to stay in touch. Here are some tips:

  • Call at times that work best for your relative or friend.
  • Be aware that your relative or friend might be tired, so don’t make the call too long.
  • End the call by saying you’ll be in touch soon and make a reminder for yourself about when to call again.

Text messages

Many people keep in touch with text messages. They are a good way of letting people know you’re thinking of them and only take a few minutes to send.

When you write or text the person, let them know they don’t need to reply straight away. You could say something like ‘I want you to know I’m thinking of you, but don’t feel you have to reply’. This way, you’re not putting them under any pressure to respond.

Social media

Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are popular ways of sharing thoughts, feelings and events with many people at one time. They can be a good way of keeping in touch, especially if the person you’re supporting feels tired or unwell.

If you want to talk with your relative or friend about cancer on social media, consider using private messaging. They may not want to discuss this information in public.


It’s very common for people with cancer to feel lonely and isolated. Try to spend time with your relative or friend. Being able to see them and hear their voice can often give you a better idea of how they are feeling. If your relative or friend wants to have an in-depth conversation about their feelings, this may be more likely to happen when you see each other face to face.

My husband loves having visitors, but many people don’t realise how tiring this can be. Try to visit often but be aware of how they are and keep it short.


Back to If someone has cancer

Things to avoid saying

Understanding things that might be unhelpful to say can make you more confident about talking with someone who has cancer.

Looking after yourself

Supporting a person with cancer can be both rewarding and demanding. Make sure you have the support you need.