“ You’re in the darkness, in distress and denial
when the diagnosis comes. So it’s good to hear
from others, learn from their journey and get
support – that’s why support groups are so good.
And whānau – they help a lot.”

For some people, meeting others who are in a similar situation can help to decrease feelings of anxiety, isolation or fear. Support groups offer you the opportunity to share your experiences and learn different ways of dealing with problems.

The Cancer Society offers support groups that you may find helpful. Phone the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237) for further information.


A counsellor can help you to talk about your feelings around the impact a cancer diagnosis can have, helping you work on healthy coping strategies. To find a counsellor talk to your GP, your local Cancer Society, your treatment team or the Breast Cancer Foundation.

Cultural and spiritual support

Hospitals throughout New Zealand have trained health workers available to support your spiritual, cultural and advocacy needs. They may include Māori and Pacific health workers who will work with you and your family/whānau. Hospital chaplains are available to offer support through prayer and quiet reflection. Community-based health workers at your local marae and Pacific health services may also be good sources of support.
For more information on this topic, see our information sheet Cancer, wairuatanga and spirituality.

Tautoko ā-ahurea, ā-wairua hoki

Ka whai ngā hōhipera huri noa i te motu i ngā kaimahi hauora kua whakangungutia hei tautoko i ō hiahiatanga ā-wairua, a-ahurea, ā-whaitaua hoki. Tērā pea, hē puna āwhina ngā kaimahi hauora kei tō marae ā-rohe, kei tētahi ratonga hauora Moana-nui-ā-Kiwa rānei. E wātea ana hoki ngā minita ō te hōhipera ki ngā tangata katoa, ahakoa te whakapono, te kore whakapono rānei, me tā rātou whakarato tautoko mā te karakia me te hurihuringa mārie. Kōrero ki tō rōpū atawhai hauora mō ngā ratonga e wātea ana. Mō te roanga o ngā pārongo e pā ana ki tēnei kaupapa, tirohia tā mātou whārangi pārongo Cancer and spirituality.

Some people find that relaxation, massage or meditation helps them to feel better. Your treatment team or your local Cancer Society may be able to advise you on local community programmes.

Your local Cancer Society may offer massage at a small cost. 

• Download a free copy of Cancer Society Auckland-Northland Division’s Relaxation and Mindfulness CD

• Download a free copy of Cancer Society Wellington Division’s Relaxation and Visualisation CD 


Talking with your children

What you choose to tell children about your illness will depend on how old they are and your relationship with them. All children need to know that they will be looked after even if you cannot always do it yourself. Children’s understanding of illness varies depending on their age and family/whānau experiences. The Cancer Society’s booklet Cancer in the Family offers suggestions to help you talk with your child/children about cancer and is available here 


Skylight is an organisation that offers support, information and counselling to young people experiencing loss and change. To get in touch with Skylight, phone 0800 299 100 or visit its website.

You might like to find the resource ‘Mummy’s lump’ to read to your children, see the books section.
“ The whānau go through the journey with us –
we need to find ways to talk to them about
it too.”

Ka hāngai tō kōrero ki ō tamariki e pā ana ki tō mate, e ai ki tō rātou pakeketanga me tō hononga i te taha i a rātou. Me matua mōhio ngā tamariki katoa ka tiakina rātou nā te mea kāore e taea e koe i ngā wā katoa. He rerekē te mōhio a tēnā tamaiti, a tēnā tamaiti ki tēnei mea te māuiui, e ai ki tō rātou pakeke, me ngā wheako a tō rātou whānau. Ka whakarato whakaaro te puka a te kāhui matepukupuku,cancer in the family hei āwhina i a koe ki te kōrero ki ō tamariki mō te matepukupuku.

Family 259

How families/whānau can help

As a friend or family/whānau member of someone who is diagnosed with breast cancer, you are also learning to cope with your own feelings and emotions. You may want to help but not know what to do.

Here are some suggestions that may be useful.


• Learn about breast cancer and its treatment. This will help you to understand what the person you are supporting is coping with.

• Be thoughtful about offering advice. Listening while they talk or just being there with them, are good ways to show you care.

• Talk about your feelings together and be honest about what worries you.

• Offer to go to appointments with them. You can be there for support,

take notes or, when appropriate, take part in the discussions.

• Respect that your family/whānau member or friend may want to talk

to their treatment team alone. “ Tell the men – just to take one step towards it.

They find it hard to talk about what’s going on,
but they don’t have to take the journey all
at once.”
The Cancer Society offers a range of resources to support you. We suggest you read Supporting Someone
with Cancer which is available here.

Pēhea āwhina ai te whanau

I roto i tō tū hei hoa, hei whānau rānei ki tētahi kua pāngia ki te matepukupuku o ngā ū, kei te ako anō hoki koe ki te whakarite i ōu ake kāre-ā-roto me o aronga nui. Tērā pea, ka hiahia koe ki te āwhina engari kāore koe e mōhio me aha. Anei ētahi whakaaro tērā pea ka āwhina:

• Me mārama koe ki te matepukupuku o ngā ū me ōna maimoatanga. Mā tēnei e āwhina i a koe kia mōhio ai koe ki ngā piki me ngā heke o te tangata e tautoko ana koe.

• Me ata whakaaro koe ki ngā tohutohu ka hoatu koe. Te whakarongo i te wā kei te kōrero rātou, te noho i tō rātou taha, ngā huarahi pai hei whakaatu i tō atawhai.

• Kōrero tahi mō o kōrua kāre-ā-roto, me pono tonu ki ngā mea e pēhi ana i a koe.

• Kōrero ki a rātou mō tō hiahia ki te whai i a rātou ki a rātou hui tirotirohanga. Ka āhei koe ki te tautoko i a rātou, tuhi i ngā kōrero, mēnā e tika ana - te whakauru ki roto i ngā kōrero.

• Me mārama, tērā pea ka hiahia kē tō hoa, tō whanaunga rānei ki te kōrero takitahi ki tō rātou kāhui tiaki.



Fear of cancer coming back

Feeling anxious and frightened about the cancer coming back (recurrence) is the most common fear for people after cancer, especially in the first year after treatment. For some people, this fear may affect their ability to enjoy life and make plans for the future. Many people who have had cancer say that, with time, they feel less anxious. You may feel more anxious at times like the anniversary of the day you were diagnosed, or hearing about cancer in the media.


“ Cancer will always leave a scar. The scars are
internal, they’re emotional, they’re intellectual, and
they are physical. The physical scars are probably
the least of my worries. I found the emotional
scars the hardest to cope with.”

You may wonder how likely it is that your cancer will come back, or how long most people who have had your type of cancer live for. Your doctor is the best person to talk with about your situation, but they still won’t be able to tell you for sure what will happen. You may find this hard to accept and want someone to be able to give you definite answers. This is natural.

“ Make fear of recurrence a ‘back seat passenger’ in
your life rather than letting it sit up front and
annoy you all day and night. You can also book an
appointment time for your recurrence fear, say 30
minutes a day. You can worry as much as you like
during this time but after that you have to send it
to the back seat and tell it to be quiet.”
Sue (GP)

Ideas that might help with fears:

• talk to your treatment team or GP about how to recognise the difference between normal aches, pains, or sickness, and cancer symptoms

• attend your follow-up appointments, including routine mammograms

• join a support group online or locally

• make positive lifestyle changes

• focus on what you can control

• recognise signs of stress and anxiety and try mindfulness or talk to a counsellor

• try some creative expression of your fears through art or journalling.

More questions you may want to ask

You might like to consider asking more questions about:

• how often your check-ups will be and what they will involve

• any problems you should watch out for

• when you will be able to return to work

• what you should tell your family/whānau

• the services that are available to support you and your family/whānau.