Purpose Family plays an essential role in supporting the patient with cancer, however, relatively little attention has been given to understanding the strengths and resources of the family unit across different settings and countries. This study aims to investigate the strengths and resources of patients and family members in Australia and Denmark. Methods Using a descriptive, cross-sectional design, 232 patient and family participants from inpatient and outpatient oncology services in Australia and Denmark completed paper based surveys that included the Family Hardiness Index (FHI) and Family Crisis Orientated Personal Evaluation Scales (F-COPES), together with demographic and health information. Results The family's appraisal of the cancer and ways the family worked together predicted the level of external resources used to manage their circumstances. Conclusion After a cancer diagnosis patients and family respond in different ways related to their family functioning. There is a need for nurses to work closely with the family to understand their strengths and resources, and tailor support and information for family to promote optimal patient outcomes.