Cancer support organisation Canteen launches new initiative

Canteen, the organisation that cares for children with cancer, has branched out – to help children with a parent who has cancer.

The first Canteen Offspring Support Programme was held in February in Auckland for children of cancer-stricken parents.

Chantel Strydom (second from left) with fellow participants from the canteen workshop
Chantel Strydom (second from left) with fellow participants from the canteen workshop

The programme hopes to benefit teens who have had a parent die of cancer, or whose parents are still going through cancer.

My mother died December 27, 2013, of breast and brain cancer.

Having been at the Offspring group myself two weeks ago I can vouch the programme promises to be a huge success.

This support group is not like any other.

Being the first of its kind in New Zealand, 15 teenagers were chosen to test it out, me being one of them.

Essentially we were the “make it or break it” group.

Counsellor David Garb use innovative counselling techniques that make total sense to teenagers.

The groups are smaller and more contained, allowing more one-on-one access.

Young people attending the course are paired up to learn how to deal with the tough stuff together.

I was able to tell my story without interruption, which is a rare thing.

Very often, while and after my mother lost her battle with cancer, I found myself interrupted because a family member or friend wanted to give their two cents worth of advice.

That advice is 99 percent of the time unwanted.

And Mr Garb reiterated that.

“Unless you ask for the advice, or you tell them to shut up, they will continue to vomit all over you,” Mr Garb told the group.

We learned, all of us, in two days that our words and stories mean something.

And, with our feedback, the organizers of Canteen will go away to their meetings and discuss the possibility of continuing the programme.

Without National Programmes Manager Georgie Lincoln, this opportunity would not have come about and it is thanks to her that teenagers like me now have an outlet to express ourselves.

Many do not know how to deal with a child whose parent has cancer or has died from cancer.

It seems in all the years, until now, that Canteen’s been running no-one ever thought of us, the silent sufferers.

No one understands you unless they have been where you are.

  •  If you think you are one of those people, or you just want to talk, call David Garb on 021 362801 or email him on