Psychological, counselling and social worker support
No matter how you are feeling, support services are available to you. If you speak to your cancer treatment team they can refer you to someone such as a counsellor or psychologist who can help you work through feelings of loss and grief.
Social workers are available to help support you and your family/ whānau through some of the practical, social and emotional changes a cancer diagnosis brings. If you do not already have a social worker, your cancer treatment team can arrange a referral.
Cancer Society support groups
For some people, meeting others who are in similar situations can help to decrease feelings of anxiety, isolation and 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. You may be interested in Cancer Connect, run by the Cancer Society. This is a free telephone peer-support programme. Groups may not be available throughout the country.
Phone the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237) for further information.
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. You may like to contact one of the Māori health professionals who work with district health boards throughout New Zealand to deliver
health and disability services to mostly Māori clients. A list of providers is available from the Ministry of Health website at www.health.govt.nz.
Hospital chaplains are available to people of all faiths and no faith, and 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.
Interpreting services are available
New Zealand’s Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights states that everyone has the right to have an interpreter present during a medical consultation. If you do not speak English as your first language or you are deaf, you may find it helpful to use an interpreter when you have your hospital appointments. Speak to a member of your treatment team about arranging an interpreter in your local area.
There are a number of cancer information resources that have been translated and are available on international websites. To find out what these are, phone the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237).
Lifestyle changes to help you cope with cancer
Cancer can cause physical and emotional strain. Eating well, exercising and relaxing may help to reduce stress and improve wellbeing. Addressing changes in your emotions and relationships early on is also very important.
There are a number of things that might help you to cope, such as:
• preparing simpler meals
• being more relaxed about housekeeping
• asking children, family/whānau or friends to help more around the house.
“I had to allow myself not to feel guilty that the
house was messy. It doesn’t matter that the
floor was not shiny or spick and span. After a
month I realised all these things [a clean house
and total order] did not matter. It’s the people
inside these walls who mattered. Silei ”
A number of support services are available to you if you are having difficulty coping with your cancer diagnosis or adjusting to the lifestyle changes your cancer diagnosis may bring. For more information, see the Cancer Society booklets:
The importance of exercise
Research indicates that regular, gentle exercise may help with fatigue and lift your mood. Talk with your cancer treatment team about what exercise is best for you.
“Running definitely kept me sane during chemo.
Don’t get me wrong, it was tough and I could
have given up many times, but I made it part of
my routine and made sure that on days I felt
well enough I went for a run – fresh air and a
sense of achievement were enough to help me
face the next round. Top tip – steroid days are
usually the best days for having the energy to
get out there. You can do it, one step
at a time. Claire ”
How families/whānau can help
As a friend or family/whānau member of someone who is diagnosed with 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 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
• Respect that your family/whānau member or friend may want to talk to their cancer treatment team alone.
Palliative care services
Palliative care is not just about care at the end of life. It is for people with advanced cancer and the focus is on improving their quality of life. Support can be offered in a hospital, a rest home, your own home or a hospice, and care is provided by specialist doctors, nurses, social workers and spiritual care workers.
It is a good idea to ask about palliative care early. Being able to deal with any problems or concerns early rather than waiting until they become difficult to manage can help to reduce stress for both you and your family/whānau. In general, palliative care services are free. However, there may be a charge for the hire of some equipment for
Advance care planning
Advance care planning can begin at any time. It is about helping you to think and talk about the treatments and care you might want. This gives you and your treatment team an opportunity to work together to ensure that your choices about treatment and care in the future are heard. An advance care plan will guide your doctors and family/whānau in making decisions if you are unable to make them yourself. Advance care planning is voluntary – no-one can force you to do it. For more information on advance care planning, visit the Advance Care Planning website www.advancecareplanning.org.nz.