skip to Main Content
Supporting A Colleague Through Cancer

What to do if your work colleague has cancer: navigating support and empathy  

Photo of Carina Gallegos

Carina Gallegos is the Support Angel and Customer Love Manager at Support Crew.

Carina explores the challenge of supporting a work colleague through cancer and how to navigate supporting them with some practical tips on how to make sure they get the right help at the right time.

Dealing with the news that a work colleague has cancer can be emotionally challenging. Suddenly, the dynamics in the workplace change, and you may find yourself wanting to support them in any way possible. In this guide, we will explore some practical steps to take while navigating this difficult time of supporting a colleague through cancer. Remember, being there for your colleague with empathy and understanding can make a world of difference in their cancer journey.  

Take one day at a time 

The moment you learn that your work colleague has cancer, it’s natural to feel a mix of emotions. You may feel shocked, sad, or unsure of how to respond. The key is to take things one step at a time, one day at a time.   

Start by acknowledging your feelings and allowing yourself to process the news. Reach out to your colleague and let them know that you’re there to support them. A simple message or a heartfelt conversation can mean the world to someone going through a difficult time.  

Ask them what the need specifically

The best way to support a colleague during a challenging health-related time is to ask what they need, specifically. Show genuine interest in their well-being and listen attentively to what they have to say. 

Perhaps they need someone to cover some tasks at work while they focus on treatment. Maybe they’d appreciate some company during medical appointments or help with transportation. It could even be as simple as offering to bring them a coffee or a meal to brighten their day. The key is to be receptive to their needs and offer to provide whatever you feel comfortable providing.

Take care of yourself

Supporting anyone with cancer can take an emotional toll. It’s essential to take care of yourself during this time. Ensure you’re getting enough rest, engaging in activities that bring you joy, and seeking support from friends or loved ones.  

Remember that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed or unsure about how to handle the situation. Talking to someone you trust or seeking guidance from a counsellor can help you navigate your emotions and find ways to cope with the challenges. 

Enjoy quality time together

Amidst the difficult moments, find opportunities to enjoy quality time with your colleague. Offer to join them for lunch or take a walk together during breaks. Simple gestures of kindness can make a significant impact on their well-being.  

If your colleague is open to it, you can also plan social activities outside of work to help them take their mind off the challenges of cancer treatment. A movie night, a visit to a local park, or a hobby you both enjoy can be a welcome distraction.  

Give them words of encouragement or support

Never underestimate the power of uplifting words. Share words of encouragement and support with your colleague to let them know you believe in their strength and resilience. A little positivity can go a long way in boosting their spirits during tough times.  

Sending a heartfelt email or leaving a supportive note on their desk can brighten their day and provide the emotional support they need. Be sure to let them know that you’re there for them and willing to help in any way possible.  

Supporting resources

Remember that your support as a work colleague is valuable, but there are also external resources available to help your colleague during their cancer journey. Encourage them to connect with cancer support organisations or seek professional counselling if needed.   The Cancer Society provide free counselling services for patients and their whānau.

Additionally, financial planning can be an essential aspect to consider during this time, especially if your colleague is worried about managing their finances after a serious illness. Cancer Society of New Zealand and SORTED offer valuable resources in this regard.  

Summing it up

Supporting a work colleague with cancer requires empathy, understanding, and a willingness to be there for them through the ups and downs of their journey. Take things one day at a time, and respect their decisions and privacy. Be a source of encouragement and support when and as you can, without compromising your own well-being.  

Remember to prioritise self-care and seek support when needed. This is a challenging time for both you and your colleague, but with a supportive network and a caring workplace, you can make a positive difference in their cancer experience.  

How Support Crew can help

With Support Crew, we’ve made it  easy for people going through tough times to co-ordinate help and communicate with friends, families and colleagues.  One way to support a colleague through a difficult time like cancer is to offer to create an online help roster and/or help manage it for them.

All you need to do is get their permission to first, then set-up a Support Page, invite their friends and family, make requests for help with anything they may need from meals to cleaning to transport.  Or set it up, and then get their key support person to manage it with you.  And if you need a hand with that, or have any questions, just get in touch at 

Support Crew Logo

Support Crew is an online support platform that helps those dealing with life changing events to easily co-ordinate the meals and support they need from their support network.

Phone: + 64 211 566 566