Taha whānau- Family health

Being part of a wider social system supports our emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. Families/Whānau provide us with the strength to be who we are. In taha Māori, the links to our ancestors ‒ our ties to our past, the present, and the future ‒ are part of the strength we get from taha whānau.

1200x628 Talking

Talking to family/whānau and friends

How your family/whānau communicates about your cancer depends on how you have always spoken to each other. Families/Whānau and friends who frequently share their feelings may be better able than others to talk about cancer and the changes it brings. Some relationships are more private or have one person playing a major role in decision-making. Being able to share your anxiety and fear can make you feel stronger and help you through difficult times. Talking about your feelings with a family/whānau member or friend who is a good listener could be helpful.

You may find that talking about cancer is not as difficult as you had anticipated. Trying to hide the diagnosis is usually unsuccessful. Sooner or later, family/whānau and friends will learn that you have cancer. If the people close to you have difficulty talking about cancer, calling a family/whānau hui (meeting) may help.

“ I did feel a great sense of uncertainty about prognosis and how to tell my friends and family, in such a way they wouldn’t get upset and how to let my work colleagues know.”

Suggestions for sharing your cancer

diagnosis Be prepared for people’s responses when you first tell them you have cancer. People can react very differently when hearing distressing news. Some might withdraw and others may become closer.
  • Provide clear and honest information and let them know what kind of support you need if this is appropriate.
  • Often family/whānau and friends would like to provide support but are unsure how.
  • Tell people about the diagnosis when you feel ready and in a way that you feel comfortable with.
  • Family/Whānau or friends may be able to tell others what is going on if you cannot.
  • People will want to ask you questions. You choose how much information you want to share.
  • Many people know people who have had cancer. Some will want to share their thoughts and advice about cancer that you may find upsetting. It is OK to tell them you do not want to hear them right now.
  • Let people know if you do not want your cancer details shared with others.
Read more in our information sheet, Telling others about your diagnosis.
“ Everyone had an opinion about my cancer and they didn't mind sharing it in an unfiltered, non-thinking way. That was when I felt fear - friends rambling on about this or that person who'd had chemo and what it did to them. In the end I remember thinking I can't have this 'talk' getting into my head so I shut it down by saying 'everyone is different so there is no reason to think I will experience what you are describing' - sometimes I had to say it more
than once.” Jill

Talking to your workmates

Whether or not you tell your employer and colleagues about your cancer is up to you. If your ability to do your job is not affected, you may not want to tell your employer straight away. Most people find there are things that can be done to make it easier to continue to work, such as working part-time or working from home.
Talk with your employer about what you might need while you are having treatment. If you have any employment difficulties, talk to Community Law or seek legal advice from someone with experience in employment law.

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