Showing empathy to everyone

Green plant on a wiindow ledge and the view or a tree in the garden as the view out of the window

Have you ever been told you look great, but on the inside when you’re not feeling your best? Has someone you know assumed how you may be feeling, just because you’re living with cancer? If you have, then you’re not alone.

This blog is highlighting some of the experiences members have shared when it comes to coping with the assumptions of others, and how being a part of Macmillan’s Online Community has helped.

"I have since told friends that I am struggling, one friend said still struggling! some are very supportive, some do not know what to say which is why I find this on line chat so helpful, everyone on here is going through the same thing."
Community member, Prostate cancer forum

“I’m glad you have people you can trust to tell. I’ve found many don’t know how to react or say things that they think are helpful but aren’t!”
Community member, Womb (uterus cancer forum)

“Hi, it’s really late and scary thoughts are whirling through my head so decided knows the time to join the community…I am 49 and honestly not had a single day sick for over 20 years so everyone just seems to assume I’m strong, brave and resilient but I don’t feel any of those things and treatment hasn’t even started yet.”
Community member, Breast cancer forum

Coping with the assumptions of others can impact your wellbeing. It’s the last thing you need when you are having a tough time and processing a range of emotions.

The Community is a space for everyone to share personal experiences and talk openly about how you’re feeling. Whatever you need, you’ll find lots of empathy here on the Community. You’ll probably find that Community members can be the virtual friends you never knew you needed.

Keep messaging, keep telling us how you feel. I know I'm a stranger but I'm listening.”
Community member, Cervical cancer forum

“Of course everyone is different but it is a guide and makes you feel less alone, sometimes you have the best family and friends but they can't understand exactly what you're going through like someone in your shoes."
Community member, Womb (uterus) cancer forum

“Thanks all, your responses have really been helpful, especially when you have some experience of what I’m going through. Thank you for your well wishes xxx"
Community member, Macmillan's Online Community

“I've told only the ones who I trust as I'd rather speak to them and they're definitely understanding and this forum seems like such a helpful community as everyone, as you've said been there and understands. Many thanks again for your kind words *hugs*"
Community member, Family and friends forum

“It's good to know there is someone out there to talk to other than family and friends (who have been great) but it helps to hear from people who have been in similar circumstances.”
Community member, Macmillan's Online Community

“I too think whatever anyone needs for themselves is what's right for them and they are best placed to know. Stereotypes are not people and one size does not fit all”
Community member, Emotional issues forum

There are lots of Community members who can understand how you may be feeling. You can make a connection with someone on the site by just being there to listen and offer support even if your situation is different.

We are all at different stages of the process, from newly diagnosed, to going through treatment and coming out the other side of it. We are here to offer all the help and support that we can, and encourage you along the way. So please keep posting with us-this is a safe place to discuss your fears and feelings, to vent and let things out and we are here to listen.”
Community member, Cervical cancer forum

Pressure to be positive

There’s often the assumption that cancer patients need a positive mindset to support them through treatment or to face the unknown. Naturally some people like to feel positive and to as it helps them cope with what they are going through. As this Community member shares:

“for me staying strong has a slightly different meaning. I have terminal, ovarian cancer. So staying strong has been about coming to terms with and accepting my diagnosis with a lot of help from a counsellor. It's been about finding ways to make the most of the life I have left. It's about being grateful for the life I've had so far, for the many opportunities I had to do things I wanted to do, and also for everything I have in my life now, an incredible group of supportive friends, living in a lovely place etc.”
Community member, Emotional issues forum

Some feel the pressure of needing to be strong for friends and family when talking about their cancer experiences when they would find it more helpful to talk about how they aren’t coping and need some support.

“Everyone keep saying you’re strong, and I want to scream I’m not but instead say yes I know”
Community member, Breast cancer forum

“It can be very difficult to pull yourself together at a time when you are so fearful, and you actually don’t need to in my opinion. This is a traumatic time and a lot to handle, so expect to feel exactly how you feel.” 
Community member, Cervical cancer forum

Sometimes I feel I don’t want to read positive stories and get my hopes up. Which I know sounds terrible but this has all happened in the space of few months and everything has just been bad news after bad news.”
Community member, Lung cancer forum

“nobody knows the struggle you keep inside. They think your strong because in the past you have dealt with stuff and they see you coping.”
Community member, Breast cancer forum

Showing empathy is such a kind thing to do as it shows that someone is listening and cares. There are no right words to say to someone who’s just diagnosed or been living with cancer for some time, but showing kindness and empathy is always important. Being able to reassure someone that their feelings are valid and encouraging them to talk can be helpful advice.

Everyone has their own ways of coping because everyone’s situation is different. However you are feeling, it’s ok and there’s support available.

If you need to talk, post in our Community groups and let it all out. Our Cancer chat and Emotional support forum are great spaces to join if you’re not yet a member. You may also feel more comfortable posting in your regular community groups where i'm sure other's will be close by with offers of help.

Additional resources you may find helpful

Take a moment- a blog exploring the different ways you can take a moment for yourself or to help relieve your stress and anxiety

Cancer and anxiety- talking about the physical symptoms and concerns which cause anxiety. 

The worry of waiting- some of the practical things you can do when you’re waiting or feeling anxious. 

The Comment box below can be used to share the assumptions you’ve come across in the comment box below or if you'd like to, share what kind of support you find the  most helpful. 

  • Has anyone worn the  old cap for chemo? I don't yet if I will loose my hair and I have been told the caps at not very comfortable. I am not that bothered about loosing my hair. More concerned about fatigue  as I also have fibramyalga  and fatigue  is common with me. 

  • Hi POPPIESue, 

    Thank you for your message, I hope that you found Megan's blog helpful to read. 

    It may be helpful for you to post this as a question in the "Cervical cancer" group as then more people who might be in a similar situation will see your message. To start a new discussion in a group, you just need to click "+New" or "+" depending on your device. This button is in the top right corner next to the group title when you're in a group.

    Have you spoken to our Support Line about your concerns around wearing a cold cap? It sounds like you might find it helpful to talk to our nurse specialists. Our nurse specialists can’t access your medical records but they can provide information and support around NHS processes and treatments. Our nurse specialists are available on the Support Line  over emaillive webchat or by calling 0808 808 00 00 7 days a week between 8am-8pm. You can also reach our nurses on the Online Community in our “Ask a nurse” section, which is available Monday – Friday. 

    If there's anything we might be able to help with, please don't hesitate to let us know. You can get in touch with the Community team over email at or by sending a private message to .

    Best wishes,


    Macmillan Community team

  • One of the wonders I get from people is "you are inspirational" - well I did not ask to be inspirational, I found a way of coping. My wife's pet hate is when people say "you are so brave" - like when did she get a choice.

  • Thank you for sharing the assumptions you and your wife experienced. I'm sure others will be able to relate and hopefully, the Community will feel like a place where everyone can get support. 

    Best wishes, 

    Macmillan's Online Community team