How you might feel

You might have a lot of different feelings when you first find out you have cancer. Learning you have cancer can be upsetting, shocking and scary. Some people feel numb and don’t know what to think or do.

Hearing the word cancer can be a reminder of others who have passed on in the Dreaming, which is very sad, and others around you might be feeling this too. You might be worried about family – what they will think and how you will cope. 

You might be worried family will also have cancer or get it at some stage too. There’s no way of knowing, but if you are worried, ask your doctor if there is something family should think about doing, like having tests themselves.

You might also feel angry about having cancer, guilty for not being able to help look after other people and stressed because of money. These are all things other mob have said they’ve been through too.

Yarn For Life, It’s OK to talk about cancer.

Other people and your cancer

Sometimes, people don’t understand how you feel and can say things that might hurt you. They might not know that you’re still coming to terms with it all yourself, and that you need support and understanding.

It can be hard to let people know what’s going on, and hard to know how to manage changes that cancer means within the family.

Things that can help

To help you and your family with all these feelings, read some stories from mob who have gone through it before at Culture, Cancer, Caring: Inspiring Stories for our mob. There is some information for families and stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families can help, such as this book from the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW.

Some mob might feel shame job about having cancer but it’s important to know that shame job has no place in cancer. Read more on the cancer is no shame job page

Things you can do

Looking after you first is the best thing you can do when you have cancer. As mob, we often put family needs before our own but with cancer, your health and wellbeing must be the priority until you are strong enough to caring for others like you used to doing. Mob who have had cancer say that one way we can care for mob when we have cancer is to put our own needs and our own bodies first.

It is important to know that you can get help. Here are some tips from mob:

  • find support wherever you can
  • ask questions and get information
  • find things that help you to stay positive
  • yarn with family, Elders and friends and tell them about how you are feeling
  • Stay close to community
  • ask for practical help to manage family and your household
  • spend time on Country
  • yarn with your doctor, nurse or Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander health worker.

You might want to take some time out.

You can read here about the tests you might have.

Cancer in our mob


Where can I get help or support?