— Skylight Trust

​Ways to support a friend or family member with a cancer diagnosis.

Cancer touches the lives of many people in New Zealand, and overseas. When you or anyone you know, either in your family, or wider afield is diagnosed with cancer, it is shocking news and you only think of the worst-case scenario. It is important to remember, that over half the people who get cancer can be cured, or symptoms can be controlled.

Because the outcomes are unknown, a cancer diagnosis can bring with it, a roller-coaster of emotions and fears. It is easier for everyone to cope better when there are regular conversations about what is happening and what to expect. Most people are helped by the support of others.

If you have a friend or whānau member who has been diagnosed with cancer:


  • offer your presence often, be a good listener when they are ready to talk, and validate their feelings
  • say you are there for them whenever they need a hand, or someone to talk to
  • talk about things other than their cancer
  • say "I love you."
  • say "I'm sorry" and "How are you doing?"
  • say you don't know what to say, when you really are at a loss as to what to say
  • ask what you can do to help and be sincere and specific so that they know you mean it. If they can't come up with anything tell them to let you know if they do and then ask again in another week or so
  • offer to help with practical things such as driving them to treatments or doctor's appointments, taking their kids to childcare, and doing housecleaning, gardening, or babysitting. Ask them what they are most concerned about not being able to do
  • call them up and tell them you're thinking about them when you are
  • respect how they choose to cope with their cancer
  • educate yourself about cancer, not only so that you don't have to keep asking your friend to educate you about it, but also, so that you have a better understanding of the disease, allowing you to talk about what's going on
  • be yourself.


  • tell them that everything's going to be all right
  • tell them you know how they feel
  • try to cheer them up or make them feel better
  • discount the real feelings they may be having, by telling them not to worry, not to be scared, or not to feel guilty
  • tell them to think of all the good times
  • share advice unless asked.

Resources Available at Skylight

Skylight is here to help you through difficult times. We can assist you in a variety of ways with information appropriate for your situation. You are welcome to visit us and receive free information and a support pack from our resource centre and borrow books from the specialist library. We also facilitate Professional Development training and offer Counselling support services for children, young people, family/whānau and individuals who are experiencing tough times.

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