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5 tips to help you support someone with Cancer

Written by Rebecca van Dijk


Rebecca van Dijk is a beautiful 33-year-old woman who was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer last year. You can read about her incredible journey thus far here, and how naming her cancer gave her a way to seperate herself from it.

Rebecca has come to know our amazing Support Crew Ambassador, Carole Oliver through the various online support groups they’re both members of. Carole told us about the awesome Rebecca and her 5 insightful and helpful tips on how to support a loved one. Rebecca has compiled and shared this on her online support groups as a way to help friends and family navigate a cancer diagnosis.


Have you ever found yourself wanting to support someone going through a difficult time, but found yourself paralysed by the fear of doing the wrong thing?  Yip – we’ve all been there right? 

Thanks to Rebecca,  here’s some top tips to help you out:

1. Meals and working bees.

Frozen meals and ‘working bee’s’ are a godsend. When you say ‘Let me know if there is anything I can do’, we probably won’t. It’s awkward asking or accepting help, so just go ahead and ask if there is anything we can’t eat as certain treatments may have food restrictions. I was to stay away from anything hot and spicy. Whip up a meal for the freezer, and leave it on the door step. Nothing fancy – if we are going through chemo we’ve probably lost our tastebuds and everything will taste metallic.

Get a group of friends together and tell the person you will be at their house on Saturday afternoon at 2pm and they are to shout instructions from the couch only. Mow the lawn, walk the dog, fold the laundry, take their kids to the movies. You will probably have a baby named after you or end up in the will after doing that.

2. Your dramas are still just as important to us!

We are still the same old person! Please keep talking to us about the dramas in your life too! Or Married at First Sight, or how orange Donald Trump is this week. Your dramas are just as important to us as they ever have been too! Don’t compare, it’s all relative.

3. The right thing to say.

No one knows the right thing to say to someone diagnosed with cancer. If you think it’s hard reaching out to someone with cancer, try having cancer and not hearing from someone you’re close to, it sucks. A simple ‘I heard your news, that sucks! I’m thinking of you’ meant the world to me. Tailor it to the person’s personality. It’s also ok to ask genuine questions about our cancer. If we don’t want to talk about it we will soon change the subject to something worse like Donald Trump.

4. Our treatment is different to the next person.

Please don’t send links to a cure you came across online, or ask why they are doing chemo over the natural options or vice versa!

If eating 10kg of kale a day and rolling in turmeric was scientifically proven to kill my cancer I’d be all over that in a heartbeat. I didn’t choose chemo over turmeric because I wanted to know what I looked like bald. I personally chose every single hair in my body falling out (including nose hair!) because of my specific situation’s survival statistics.

Alternatively, if someone has chosen the natural approach, that will be the best course of action for their specific situation. We are all different!! Not only that, but some treatments are not available to us in NZ. It’s a kick in the guts when you read about medicines that could potentially save your life that will cost a Kiwi tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, yet are publicly funded in other countries.

5. Our main support person also needs support.

Don’t forget that our main support person needs support as well. Our nearest and dearest often end up the primary caregiver by default. Husband, wife, partners, parents, etc… keep an eye on them too. Take them out for a beer or lunch and spoil them for a couple of hours. They’ll need someone to off load to!

‘Well said and thank you for letting us share these great tips Rebecca!’

This blog has been published with the permission of Rebecca van Dijk and was also published in the Oamaru Mail, The Otago Daily Times and on The Whole Lotta LIFE Foundation website.


Meet Carole Oliver: She’s not only our amazing Support Crew Ambassador, but is also our biggest cheerleader. Carole has had her Support Page for 12 months now and she’s a big part of our lives. Carole uses her Support Page to co-ordinate practical support from family and friends here in NZ and overseas; as well as keeping them updated on how she’s going each day. This photo is of Carole and Support Crew co-founder, Janine Williams when they first met in 2018.


Supporting someone going through a difficult time?

Support Crew is a FREE website that easily co-ordinates meals, transport, cleaning and any other help that’s needed from friends and family.  Essentially, it’s an online help roster.  Create a Support Page for yourself or someone else at www.supportcrew.co