Sadia spent six months in hospital. During this time, she found different ways of keeping in touch with her school friends including games and Skype. In this video, she talks about how important this was.

In this video, Billy-Jean talks about how she encouraged her friend in hospital to open up. She describes the benefits of talking about cancer with other children, and how explaining things to her school friends helped her. 

Your questions about friends

How can I explain what is happening to me to my friends?

Our child expert Albert says:

"When I first got cancer everyone was asking me, "What's that thing in your eye?" (I had a tumour) and it was hard to answer their questions. I asked the CLIC Sargent Nurses to come into school and talk to my class about what was happening to me. This made it easier as I didn't need to explain anymore. They also spoke to the whole school in assembly."

We say:

Sometimes social workers or nurses go into schools and explain to your school friends what is happening. You may find that once they understand, they won’t feel the need to keep asking questions about your cancer but will just get back to being friends like before.

The most important thing is to do what is right for you – if you are happy to answer questions then tell them whatever you can. But it’s also okay to say if you don’t want to talk about it.

Sometimes I don’t want to talk about my cancer. What can I do?

Sometimes you will want to talk about your illness, but sometimes you will just want to talk about normal stuff. If you don’t want to talk about it, just ask if you can chat about it later. Ask them about something you want to talk about instead, like what’s going on at school or a new film.

How do I deal with my friends treating me differently?

Our child expert Albert says:

"This is a hard one! We are different because of our cancer but everyone is different in their own ways and that's a good thing. I found it tricky because I didn't want people to make a big fuss but I did want them to know what I was (and still am) going through. Remember that this can make it tricky for your friends too. If you think people are treating you unfairly you should talk to someone you trust who you think can help. It can be useful to ask an adult to talk to your class about what you can and can't do, so that they know when to help and when to treat you normally. Ask your teacher to remind everyone that you are still you and that cancer isn't an alien that has taken  over your personality!"

We say:

When your friends find out you have cancer, some will want to help you and talk to you. Others may not know what to say or do, or even avoid you. You may also find that some people suddenly start calling you ‘brave’ or feeling sorry for you. Try to be yourself. Let friends and other people know that, yes, you’re having cancer treatment, but you’re still the same old you. Stay in touch with friends, let them know when you’re ready to hang out and do the things you enjoy doing together.

Why do people act so weird when you say you have cancer?

People don't always know what to so when someone has cancer. They might be shocked, worried about saying the wrong thing or feel sad that you're ill. They may have lots of questions, which you can answer if you want to. You don't have to though. Just try to be yourself and let them know that you're still the same old you!

How can I let me school friends know what is going on when I am not at school?

People might send you cards and letters when they find out you are poorly so you can write back to them if you like. You can also phone or message your friends, or if it’s a smartphone, download apps like Skype or FaceTime so you can video call them. Some schools can even set up a computer with Skype in the classroom! You could also write updates of how you are that could go on a school message board for your friends to read.

I feel a bit lonely sometimes. What can I do to stay close to my friends?

It can be hard to stay in touch with friends when you are in hospital and it can be difficult to get back to normal afterwards. The important thing is to talk to people about how you feel. Your mum, dad or carer can help you to plan how to get back in touch with your friends and maybe arrange something fun to do.

If you are in hospital and would like some visitors (and your doctors and nurses say it’s okay) you could invite a few friends to come and see you. You can also phone or message your friends whenever you are feeling up to it.

I haven't lost my hair and people don’t realise I’m ill. How do I tell my friends I'm not allowed to do things without getting upset?

It can be hard when your friends don't understand. Try to talk to your friends about why you can’t do certain things at the moment. You could always practise the things you would like to say with your parents, carers, CLIC Sargent Social Worker or nurse. If people are asking you too many questions or are making nasty comments then make sure you tell someone. 

How can I explain to my friends why I still need to go to hospital when I don’t need medicine anymore?

First of all, it’s important that you understand why you have to come to follow-up clinic. That will make it easier to explain things to your friends. Maybe you could just say that the doctors and nurses need to keep an eye on you for a while to check that you stay healthy. They also want to make sure that you don’t have any problems caused by your treatment.

Updated April 2018, next review due 2021.