On International Friendship Day, the Teenage Cancer Trust has launched a new friendship campaign to support teens in their cancer diagnosis and treatment.

New research from the charity revealed 55% of teens and young people with cancer find friends reduce contact after their cancer diagnosis, and 40% find friends stop contacting them completely.

This is hugely difficult for teens going through a lifechanging diagnosis, especially during an isolating pandemic, and Hiral Deugi from Southall is backing the Friendship and Cancer campaign aiming to stop cancer getting in the way of friendships.  

Hiral was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia aged 21, and is one of 20 young people around the country sharing their experiences and tips on how to be a good friend to someone getting treatment for cancer.

One of the main issues highlighted by Teenage Cancer Trust was awkwardness around what to say or do when your friend is diagnosed or going through treatment, led many friends to drift apart.

Hiral is now 24 and explained how this impacted her. 

She said: “I was so, so, hurt when it took a long time for a close friend to come and visit me in hospital. 

"I could see her on social media partying, which is totally fine, but I thought ‘what about me?’. It was the worst time of my life and I needed her.  

“When she did eventually visit me, she said that she hadn’t come before then because she felt awkward and didn’t know what to say, but I was so angry I told her to leave.  

“Trying to put myself in her shoes now I can see that she probably thought I was going to die and couldn’t deal with it.

“My top tip would be that if you’re feeling awkward about how to talk to your friend with cancer then get some help – go online and educate yourself and ask your friend what you could do that would help them. 

“And if you have cancer tell your friend how they can help you and that you need them around – they might not know.”

Ealing Times:
Helen Veitch, Head of Youth Support Coordinators at Teenage Cancer Trust, added: “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.” 

Other young people like Hiral have added their tips to keep friendships alive during cancer treatment.

Charlie Aldred, 20, from Bedworth said: “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 highlighted: “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 added: “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 said: “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.” 

Kathryn Rodwell, 22, North Wales added: “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.” 

 Visit www.teenagecancertrust.org/friends for tips from young people on how to be a good friend to someone with cancer.