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Being diagnosed with cancer can be a very stressful time for you and your loved ones. You may experience a number of different emotions which may change from day to day. Many people describe it as ‘riding an emotional rollercoaster’. Emotions can arrange from stressful and distressing, to sad and upsetting, but also moments of humour and joy. There is no ‘right’ way to feel, and every emotion is valid to you.

Remember that no emotion lasts forever. A good tip is to say to yourself, “I am feeling [emotion] for now” This reinforces the temporary nature of our feelings, and just as this feeling arose, it will also pass.

Knowing that you may feel okay one day, and then incredibly sad the next, and then okay the following day, can help you cope with these changes in emotions.

Knowing that, with time, the feeling will pass and tomorrow may come with more settled feelings can help to reduce fear and worry that these feelings themselves can bring.

Everyone responds to these emotions in different ways too. Some people like to talk to others, some prefer to spend time on their own working through it, and some like to read about how to work through the unpleasant emotions. There is no right way, and you should do what feels right for you.

There are lots of services, resources and support networks that are available for you to tap into which may help you through this unsettling time. See the below pages to learn more about these services.

Click here to see more about support pages and resources.

Anxiety and depression are also common in those who have received a cancer diagnosis. They are often thought of normal reactions to a very abnormal situation. Below are some common indicators that you may have anxiety or depression. If you experience any of the below symptoms and they linger over a period of time, or interfere with your ability to engage with life in the way that you want to, contact your G.P who may be able to provide advice, medication and/or refer you for counselling.


Some common anxiety symptoms include:

  • Hot and cold flushes

  • Shaking

  • Racing heart

  • Tight feeling in the chest or chest pains

  • Struggling to breathe

  • Snowballing worries that get bigger and bigger

  • A racing mind full of thoughts

  • A constant need to check things are right or clean

  • Persistent worrying ideas that seem 'silly or crazy' (pōrangi).

Credit: depression.org.nz


Key signs

  • constantly feeling down or hopeless 

  • having little interest or pleasure in doing things you used to enjoy.

Other possible signs and symptoms

  • irritability or restlessness

  • feeling tired all the time, or a general loss of energy

  • feeling empty, lonely, mokemoke 

  • sleeping problems - too much, or too little

  • losing or gaining weight

  • feeling bad about yourself or things you have done

  • problems with concentration 

  • reduced sex drive 

  • thinking about death a lot

  • thoughts of harming yourself.

Credit: depression.org.nz