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Picking Podcasts for Your Friend with Cancer

Podcasts a great escape!

51% of people in the US have listened to a podcast which means, there is so much more to helping a friend with cancer than buying a headscarf.

Podcasts make a great gift for your friend with cancer because they are easy to download and access. But if you haven’t dipped your toe into the world of podcasts, it can be a little scary. Here’s why….

There are over 700,000 podcasts (in 2018 it was 550,000) and 29 million episodes in 100 different languages. Overwhelming right! That’s a lot of listening!

So how do you choose a podcast to recommend?

A very good question!

First, choosing is important, not because of the choice but because if you want to be helpful, the goal of all offers of support is to…

not burden your friend with one more thing!

Saying to your friend “You should listen to podcasts” without recommendations or sending them a link is not helpful because it creates a burden.

(Remember the #2 rule in supporting a friend with cancer is to be specific, to NOT add to their burden aka to-do list.)

If you have your favorite podcasts and you know what your friend likes, then no need to read any further.


If you want to give a nice gift to a friend you don’t know well, or a co-worker you are not close to, then continue reading.

Here are five basic questions that I asked myself to figure out what podcasts to recommend to my friend with cancer.

1. What are the most popular genres?

Society & Culture

News & Politics


Health (there are a number of cancer podcasts! I’ll be one soon too!)


I wanted to keep it easy on myself so I decided to pick something from popular genres.

History, education, and mystery/crime are also other popular topics.

Not sure what topic best suits your friend with cancer? Ask her or him what they are most into watching or reading right now. That will give you a nice clue.

2. What kind of podcast formats are there?


  • Gabfest: When two or more hosts “gab” about a topic.) I used to love TWiT (The Week in Tech) for this reason. On gabfest podcasts, you got multiple guests taking on a subject. It can be super entertaining.

  • Interview: The interview format is great because the show often starts with a hypothesis and then goes about trying to either prove or disprove it. (At least a good show does) Death, Sex & Money with Anna Sale is a great example of that. I also like it because she discusses socially taboo topics.

  • Storytelling: Nothing can take your friend with cancer away like a good story. SERIAL is a great example of that. It’s an investigation into the death of a high school student that became the most successful podcast of all time.

I always recommend storytelling formats to friends who are on chemo. Art used to love a good story because, 1) It took him out of his body and the pain he was in and 2) He didn’t have to think. A side effect of chemo was his lack of concentration for new concepts.

Is your friend an extrovert who enjoys banter? Does your friend like to be pulled into a good story? How you answer those questions can help you figure out the right format.

Keep in mind, the format isn’t as important as the interest in the topic, so don’t sweat it if you can’t answer this one.

3. What will my friend with cancer need to listen to a podcast?

Most podcast are listened to on smartphones (Andriod or iPhone) but computers work too. A good pair of earbuds, AirPods or great headphones make all the difference.

Buying a nice set of headphones to accompany your list of suggested podcasts is such a thoughtful gift!

4. Where to find podcasts?

Oh, the places you can go… to find podcasts. You can find podcasts on iTunes, Google Play, or by using apps like Stitcher, Podcast or now even Spotify.

But going there won’t necessarily help you decided which podcast to recommend. Here is a list I hope will be helpful. I read through it and already added a few to my “listen to after I finish writing this post” list!

5. I already have my favorite podcasts, can’t I just share those?

Heck yes!! But with one caveat. The best gifts are those that the person wants, not what the giver wants.

I will leave you with this one story from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

In the story he shares how a father took his son to see every major league baseball team in the country play one game. Someone said to the father, “You must really like baseball” to which the father replied, “No, but my son does.”

Being helpful is not just about doing something, it’s about doing something that is helpful to the person you are trying to support.

But always, doing something is way, way, way better than doing nothing at all!

And that wraps up this post, but first, here are the top three podcasts that I’m hooked on right now. That last one was the one I recommend to my friend with cancer. I’m afraid the other two aren't going to be very helpful to your friend with cancer unless they are HR professionals!

How does work culture shape human behavior and experience? How do humans create cultures? From uncomfortable truths to heart-to-heart conversations, Culture First uncovers what it really takes to build a better world of work. (I’m an HR professional so I find this super interesting.)

Join Walter Isaacson as he explores digital disruption and innovators using tech to enable human progress – at your own pace. Play any of the Trailblazers episodes here.

Serial is an investigative journalism podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig, narrating a nonfiction story over multiple episodes.

What podcasts do you love? Please leave a comment.

You matter!

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