Beating bowel cancer together

Emotional wellbeing

Tips for supporting someone with bowel cancer during the coronavirus pandemic

We asked people with bowel cancer to tell us about the support they received from people around them. We’ve used what they told us to create some tips that might help you support someone going through the disease.

  • Empower the person by asking what you can do. Ask the person with bowel cancer how they would like you to support them, which will give them back some control.
  • Check in on how the person is doing. Simple phone calls, texts and video calls can be helpful. Though recognise they may be tired, not up to it or prefer to be alone. A message about a book you enjoyed, an album you liked or a recipe they might like to try can show that you’re caring and keeping them in mind.
  • Help the person pass time. If you’re with the person with bowel cancer, doing more of the activities they usually enjoy could help to pass the time. This might include things like playing board and card games, getting into a new TV show, reading or spending some time in the garden.
  • Continue to be there for them. There’s often a lot of support available when someone is first diagnosed, but it can decrease over time. Try to check in regularly if you can. This is likely to be particularly important when someone is having to spend lots of time indoors.
  • Everyone’s experience of cancer is different. Try not to compare what the person is going through with other people’s experiences.
  • Talk to the person normally, as you would with other people. Don’t feel that you have to watch what you say. Not mentioning things can make the person feel isolated and left out.
  • Actively listen when you speak to the person. You don’t always have to find things to say, sometimes it really helps just to listen. If you’re face to face, mirror the person’s body language and engage with them. If possible, turn your phone on silent as it can be distracting.
  • Remember it’s normal to have ‘off days’. The person with cancer may have good days and bad days. They might not want to communicate on some days and it’s important to recognise this. Try to match the mood of the person. If they want to be left alone, leave them alone. If you’re worried they’re constantly feeling low, they may need to seek professional help or support.
  • Share updates with a few people. Whilst it’s nice that people want to know how the person with bowel cancer is doing, it can become time consuming to tell everyone individually. If you’re helping your loved one share updates/information about their bowel cancer with others, you might find it helpful to tell a few trusted people who can pass the information on. Make sure the person with bowel cancer is happy for you to do this first.
  • Stress and fatigue can cause mood swings. These can be difficult to cope with but it can be helpful to remember they’re usually temporary.  
  • Give yourself time off. It can be physically and mentally tiring to support someone with bowel cancer no matter what else is going on in the world. Make sure to look after yourself too and try and find some time to relax if you can. Remember you don’t have to support someone on your own, we provide expert information and support for everyone affected by bowel cancer. Visit our website for more information.

Practical things you could help with might include:

  • Delivering dinner or meals or helping to organise a food delivery slot
  • Looking after pets
  • Going shopping for them
  • Collecting and delivering medication
  • Helping with cleaning or laundry
  • Helping with other ‘life admin’

“A simple flower image can bring a smile and at this moment anything that can give a smile is worth doing” Read more from Matt and our other supporters in our blog about staying safe and keeping positive at this time.

Click here for the government’s advice on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak.

See all our Coronavirus advice and guidance

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