Kemi shares her advice for supporting a loved one with cancer

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Kemi Olaiya (SGC UK's Treasurer) shares her advice for supporting a loved one with cancer

What advice would you give to someone supporting a loved one with cancer?

The advice I would give to someone who is a friend, or family, or loved one of someone with any type of cancer, or any type of illness to be honest, is 'first and foremost, look after yourself'.  You cannot support the person you want to support if you are not in the right place yourself, and I mean both physically, mentally and emotionally.  Honesty, I think is key.  The person who is unwell is dealing with something so big that most of us hopefully won't have to deal with, and from my experience honesty is such a big thing. 

When my sister was ill, I was very honest with her at one point and encouraged her to seek professional advice, not so much therapy but someone external to talk to because I found that some of the times when we were talking, we didn't upset each other, but we got very emotional and got very very upset.  So I would say 'honesty is really key' and I would also say 'don't be afraid to be afraid' because it's a big deal.  It's a big deal and especially for the rarer cancers, there is no one set rule for everybody, so 'don't be afraid to be afraid'.

How did you make sure your relationship didn't become all about cancer?

I tried to make sure that all the things we did together, or separately, did not focus on the illness.  I still made sure that we still did.. at one point my sister was told she couldn't do this or that, and so I said 'ok nothing is worse than this, therefore, let's try this and if it's too much we'll stop it'.  So I would say 'don't make everything about the illness'.  Try, it's not easy, to do the things that you enjoy, because they are the things that are going to stay with you, with survival and with loss.