Coming to terms with prostate cancer

Some tāne want to yell. Some want to cry. Others are completely silent.

Tāne respond in all kinds of ways to being diagnosed and living with prostate cancer (matepukupuku repeure) and it’s all very personal. But these feelings of anger, sadness and losing hope don’t have to last forever. You can get through the ups and downs, one step at a time.

For Maori tāne, remember to draw on these 4 key elements for support when experiencing health challenges: wairua (spiritual), hinengaro (psychological), tinana (physical) and whānau (extended family). Along with karakia (blessing or prayer), they play an essential part in protecting and uplifting your wellbeing.

What are some normal
feelings right now?

Everyone’s different, but you may be feeling a wide range of emotions like:

  • shock and anger

  • denial

  • worry

  • loneliness

  • feeling like a burden on others

In this moment, you might
also be going through:

  • Sense of loss 
    Physical changes to your tinana, such as putting on weight, losing physical strength, or changes to your sex life could make you feel differently about yourself.

  • Changing identity
    Sometimes tāne say they feel less of a tāne because of their diagnosis and treatment. Other times, tāne feel that their role in the family has changed — for example, because they’ve had to stop working.

  • Mood swings 
    Some treatments, like hormone therapy, can make you feel a wide range of emotions in a short amount of time. This can mean getting teary-eyed one moment and extremely angry the next.


It’s important to know that you’re not alone, and there are many people (like friends and whānau) in your corner to support you. Speak to your doctor, care team, hauora provider or a counsellor if you're feeling overwhelmed.

For support from a trained counsellor, you can free call or text 1737, or use the Depression Helpline 0800 111 757 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

You can also access cancer support and counselling services by visiting the Cancer Society website or calling their helpline 0800 226 237 (Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5:00pm).

Taking Action

Everyone has their own way of dealing with prostate cancer. Here are ways you can take action:

  • Find out more about your treatment, so you know your options and what to expect.

  • Find out about the side effects of your treatment, so you know how to get ahead of issues.

  • Be as active as you can. Even gentle walking can improve your mood. 

  • Think about what you eat and drink. Eating a healthy, balanced diet and good kai can give you an energy boost. 

  • Take time out to look after yourself. When you feel up to it, learn some techniques to manage stress and relax, like listening to music, yoga, breathing exercises or going for a walk in the ngahere, or a swim in the moana.

  • Set fun goals and things to look forward to.

Who can help you get better?

Trained counsellors or
wellbeing support providers

At a time when you have so much on your shoulders, someone who’ll listen without judgment is critical. Talking to someone kanohi ki te kanohi (face-to-face) is a really good option. There are different people who can help you deal with mental health issues, including hauora providers. You can also look for rongoā Māori healers.

Counsellors are trained to listen and can help you to find your own ways to deal with things. Many hospitals have counsellors or psychologists who specialise in helping people with cancer — ask your care team at the hospital if this is available or if they know of services in the community you can access at low or no cost to you. Your doctor may also be able to refer you to a counsellor, or you can seek out a private counsellor yourself. You can also call 1737 at any time to speak to a trained counsellor for free.

Find out more information and search for counsellors in your area on the New Zealand Association of counsellors website.

You may also be able to access free psychology and counselling services in your local area through the Cancer Society. Some people find one session very useful, and others appreciate ongoing support.

Your medical team

Talk to your nurse, doctor, hauora provider or someone else in your care team. They can help you understand your prostate cancer diagnosis, treatment, and side effects, listen to your concerns, and put you in touch with other people who can help.

Some general practices include a Heath Improvement Practitioner to provide mental wellbeing support and follow-up. They can see anyone (of any age) who needs to make changes in their lives to improve wellbeing. Ask your doctor if this service is available.

Additional Resources

Improve your mental wellbeing

Learn how to manage stress, calm your mind or lift your mood.

Get mental health support

Access services, get support and learn about caring for your mental wellbeing

Cancer Society of New Zealand

Access cancer support nurses, one-on-one support and counselling services

Find a support group or network near you

Find information and support on taking care of yourself and others

A resource provided by Te Hiringa Hauora (the Health Promotion Agency)

What's next?

Now that you've read up on Coming to terms with prostate cancer, here are some related articles to explore as you continue to build your knowledge and understanding of this topic.
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