Adult female helping adult female with getting out of the car and groceries. POC, latinx.

Impacts of Cancer on Others

Last updated: September 2022

One thing that can be hard to remember as a cancer patient is that we are not the only one's processing and adjusting to our diagnosis. Family, friends, and even coworkers can be impacted by this in many ways.

Most often they are also processing and may be sad, worried, and afraid for you, your family, and your health. Many will be extremely supportive, but there may be others that start acting differently towards you. Some people tend to feel guilty and helpless for others that are sick. Sometimes they have difficulty understanding how they can help you. They may not know how to process all of this.


Once you or someone close to you are diagnosed, things quickly change. It’s common for roles and responsibilities to change among the family, or group of friends. For example, when a spouse that usually does all the grocery shopping is the one to become ill, the other one will need to step up and take over that duty. I have had some difficult conversations with friends over the years. I am shocked when those that we need to depend on the most are unable to step up.

If you know someone in treatment and are in a position to offer some support with grocery shopping or running errands, please do. It is something so small and probably only a couple of hours. It will mean so much to them. It is one less thing for them to worry about.

Routines change

When someone gets sick, chances are the routines within your home are going to change. You may need your spouse for example to drive you to treatments and they may need to miss work. Or they need to take the kids to baseball because you no longer can. It is disruptive to our lives and requires some navigating to adjust how things were, to where they now need to be.


If someone lives alone and they become ill, they usually need to have some support in their home. They may need to stay with others that can assist them. I had a friend who was single at her time of diagnosis years ago. A group of us worked together to make sure she was never without a ride to an appointment or a treatment. We made sure when she was recovering after each round, that someone was there if she needed it. We cooked, we cleaned, and we did laundry. We did it because we all cared for her very much and because we wanted her to know she was not alone in this.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

This is all a lot of change for a lot of people when one person is diagnosed. Remember, there are people that want to be a source of help for you. They just may not know what you need. You should be confident in asking for support in any capacity. If someone asks how they can help, don’t hesitate to take them up on the offer that day, or even later on. They would not offer if they did not want to assist you. They clearly care for you.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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