Finding support

When people stay away

When people hear you have cancer, relationships can change.

Some people will be very supportive, while others may withdraw. People have their own reasons for staying away. They may not be able to cope with their feelings or they may not know how to respond. If you feel hurt by this sort of reaction, a conversation may clear the air. Sometimes accepting that people are unable to offer their support can help you move forward.

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Talking to others

Sometimes we need different support from that which our family/whānau and friends can provide. For some people, meeting others who are in a similar situation can help to decrease feelings of anxiety, isolation, and fear. Support groups offer you the opportunity to share your experiences and learn different ways to deal with problems.
The Cancer Society can link you with local support groups and services that you may find helpful. Phone the Cancer
Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237).

Ways to share how you are feeling when you do not feel like talking

Your physical health, your spiritual and emotional wellbeing, and your family/whānau relationships may change during and after cancer treatment. Sometimes it can be hard to talk about how you are feeling. To express your feelings without talking, you could try:

• journaling, emailing or blogging

• drawing or doing something creative

• leaving notes on your fridge about how you are feeling

• scrapbooking.

Tips to help you cope with change

• Keeping up your usual daily activities when you can may help you feel more in control, give you a sense of achievement, and take your mind off cancer.

• Take time out for some fun. Listen to your favourite music or watch a funny movie.

• Remember it’s OK to have bad days and to feel down every now and then.

• It may help to learn more about your cancer.

• Let your treatment team know if you are in pain or having trouble sleeping or eating.

• Keep active ‒ a short walk every day can help.

• Spend time in nature.

• Learn relaxation techniques such as breathing, yoga, romiromi, mirimiri, fofo, or massage to release tension and anxiety.

• Eat well.

• Spend time with supportive family/whānau and friends.

When you might need professional support

Feeling anxious and upset is a normal reaction to hearing you have cancer. However, if you notice any of the following things happening, you need to seek professional support if you:

• are finding it difficult to function on a daily basis

• have lost the desire to do things that previously gave you pleasure

• begin to rely on alcohol or drugs to get you through the day

• lose your appetite and stop eating

• find you are sleeping too much or are having a lot of trouble sleeping

• are at risk of hurting yourself or someone else because of your anger

• are thinking about self-harm or are feeling suicidal. Call Lifeline on 0800 543 354.

If you are concerned that you, or someone else, is in immediate danger, call 111 immediately and ask for help.

“ I don’t think I cried with friends or family. However, one day very early in my diagnosis, when I was home alone, I rang the Cancer Society and spoke to one of the care team. There was no talking actually, with a stranger on the other end of the phone, I just cried and cried and cried. I couldn’t speak at all. The person on the other end of the phone was so very understanding and supportive.”

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