A One-Letter Wonder

  • Go on – spoil your friend. Writing a letter is like giving a hand-made gift. Make it special by buying new stationery that you know they will enjoy.

  • You’ll need their address – we often don’t have addresses anymore so you may need to ask.

  • Don’t be daunted – write a short note or postcard first saying that you’ve heard the news, you’re thinking of them and you will write them a letter soon.

  • Don’t be scared - It’s fine to say that you don’t know what they are going through. Don’t drift away from your friend.

  • Write from the heart- no matter how clumsy the words, if it’s heartfelt, you can’t go wrong.

  • Get it to the post box – whether your letter is handwritten or typed up and printed off, as long as it makes its way into an envelope and into the post, you’ve done a wonderful thing

In It For The Long Term
  • You’ve written one, write another! Your friend will feel supported by your continued correspondence.

  • Collect stories, quotes, witty anecdotes, poems. All these things can fill your letters. If you can make your friend smile and feel connected with your world, they will feel less isolated in their own.

  • Be mindful of where they are in their cancer journey – in the early stages you may want to ask about their treatments and plans but in the later stages this may be less appropriate.

  • Let the gossip flow – keep them in touch with life at work or social gossip, giving them a link to the real world. You could start a humorous day-to-day journal of what’s been happening in the office and include it in your letters.

  • Don’t feel guilty that you’re having fun – tell your friend about films you’ve seen, concerts you’ve been to, books you’ve read. They want to hear about normal lives.

  • It doesn’t always have to be words. Don’t fancy writing today - send a drawing instead or illustrate your own postcard, order a customised card or post a book or a magazine.

  • Twenty questions – send a list of questions that you don’t know about them e.g. favourite film, secret wish. Send your answers too. It may encourage them to write back, and will also deepen your friendship.

  • Don’t go on about other people with cancer. As soon as we hear someone has cancer, our natural instinct seems to be to talk about someone else we know who has it too. That’s fine if you think there may some mutual support there but be respectful that everyone’s experience is personal and different.

Tips from our Workshops

While letters are a great way to reach out to a friend with cancer, we know that getting the first letter started can be difficult; what to say without sounding morbid, patronising or clichéd? Here, in our workshop blog, we have included some letters and sample opening paragraphs to help you overcome your fears.

May 12, 2020

I managed to have lunch outside with my grandma who sat about four metres away. We had a lovely conversation, even though we had to shout. I think she enjoyed it too.

April 14, 2020

"This is the time everything gets quiet and we begin to hear our thoughts. That's why I love 7 o'clock."

March 11, 2020

Writing that first letter to a friend with cancer may be daunting but it doesn't have to be. Find out how to do it here.

February 6, 2020

In some countries, spring is know as the Queen of the Seasons, and if we can translate just some of the wonder of spring into a letter then we'll be happy.

February 4, 2020

Cancer can isolate people and lead to social anxiety. Writing a letter to a friend, relative or stranger suffering from cancer can make a huge difference to their day.

November 26, 2019

Aren't our holiday wishes going to seem insensitive? We've teamed up with the wonderful charity Live Better With to put together 5 tips for writing what may be a more than usual difficult letter because the last thing you want to do is say nothing at all.

August 12, 2019

She talks about the joy of walking her dog, hopes that  the anonymous recipient is being well cared for in hospital and lets them know that people are thinking of them. No mention of weather, wonderful hotels or beaches, just a sensitive, kind message.

July 25, 2019

Many of us may think that sending a postcard from holiday is insensitive but those left at home unable to go away tell us that knowing someone is thinking of them brings  a lot of comfort.

July 18, 2019

So what's so good about sending a postcard? Quick & Easy Chance to send a picture as well as words Can be sent from anywhere Not expensive - only the cost of the card and stamp Let's someone know you're thinking of them

July 18, 2019

Many of us may think that sending a postcard from holiday is insensitive but those left at home unable to go away tell us that knowing someone is thinking of them brings  a lot of comfort.

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Encouraging people to write letters to friends with cancer

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