20 Survival Tips for Dealing With Cancer Distress

At times, battling cancer itself is not the only hard part of the experience. In addition to physical and mental hardship, individuals with cancer often must cope with distress that at times may feel debilitating.

The moment a person is diagnosed with cancer, distress is likely to begin to surface. As an advocacy organization that works directly with patients, Good Days regularly supports individuals who not only need financial resources, but require the right information that will aid their specific health care situation. We asked our patient care specialists and the Good Days’ community of friends who have personally dealt with cancer to share their survival tips for dealing with distress. Here is what they had to say:

1. “Don’t deny, don’t accept, and don’t quit. Understand you still have control in more areas than you realize even though your life has changed.” – Nancy O.

2. “Appreciate the simple things: a sunrise or sunset, the sound of rain falling, the smell of fresh cut grass, or a wood-burning fire. Basically, some of the things that we take for granted but make life beautiful.” – Samantha C.

3. “Say the things you want to say, even if you’re afraid.” – Samantha C.

4. “Have a sense of humor and make a fool of yourself as often as you can.” – Samantha C.

5. “Create a scrapbook of life’s journey, experiences, lessons, quotes, and anything that has meaning to you.” – Cindy S.

6. “Find someone who is just willing to listen… especially on the bad days. The ability to express oneself can make a bad day better.” – Julie W.

7. “Find ways to laugh. Being with babies and kids can help, but also read joke books, watch comedy shows. Laughter helps more than it gets credit for.” – Randie O.

8. “Take daily self-reflection time where all distractions are turned off (phones, emails etc.).” – Sabrina T.

9. “Engage with local support groups to connect with other people who may have the same struggles and to know you are not alone.” – Sabrina T.

10. “Think positively.” – Sabrina T.

11. “Take yoga lessons or exercise if able. It doesn’t have to be high level, adjust to how you feel.” – Randie O.

12. “If the patient is well enough maybe a dance class to let loose and be energetic.” – Vanessa T.

13. “Have a book club specific to books about overcoming obstacles and dealing with hard times.” – Vanessa T.

14. “Take up painting. It’s a great way to express and release some emotions. Just remember, it’s not about being good but about expressing yourself.” – Jonathan P.

15. “Help others whenever you have the chance – you’ll find that you’re helping yourself in the process.” – Samantha C.

16. “If things start to feel out of control, take a walk and clear your mind. Don’t forget to breathe!” – Samantha C.

17. “Spend time around friends when possible – go out to lunch or dinner, see a play, talk about good memories. This takes you out of the ‘sick moment” and makes life normal even if just for a little while.” – Nancy O.

18. “Spend time with your spouse, children, grandchildren and loved ones. Appreciate one another and the time we have together.” – Julie W.

19. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network offers a free online resource that helps people with cancer identify their levels of distress and also the experts with specialized knowledge and skills to help with emotional or coping difficulties.” – Clorinda W.

20. “This poem was shared with my grandfather when he was first diagnosed with cancer last year. He says it helps remind him that his cancer doesn’t mean the end, it’s just another page in his story.” – Rebecca D.

What Cancer Cannot Do

Cancer is so limited…
It cannot cripple love
It cannot shatter hope
It cannot corrode faith
It cannot destroy peace
It cannot kill friendship
It cannot suppress memories
It cannot silence courage
It cannot invade the soul
It cannot steal eternal life
It cannot conquer the spirit

– Author Unknown

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by prudkov

, Contributor list

Related to Cancer

Illustration of two people talking, with shadows on the ground

‘How Are You?’ Isn’t the Same After My Cancer Diagnosis

“How are you?” you ask as we meet in the hallway. “Pretty good.” “OK.” “Hanging in.” I see the questions and surprise in your eyes. “Wait, I thought you had cancer and were on chemo?” they might be thinking. I could tell you how I’m tired, or how my fingers tingle from the cold, especially [...]
Side profile of young woman playing with son (8-9) on rug

Telling My Kids I Have Cancer

I was diagnosed with cancer when my boys were 5 and 7. It is exquisitely painful to watch your children be confronted with a tremendous loss of innocence at such a young age, while at the same time breathtaking and inspiring to watch how brave they are in the face of uncertainty. For example: When [...]
Boat at sea at sunset

Coming Out, as Dying

I am coming out, as dying. In November 2015, I was diagnosed with stage four cancer. “Four” befour I even reached 40. Four. Cancer. I am coming out, as dying. Imagine being told you are going to die a painful death, sooner than nearly everyone you know, by several decades. Think about the pain. Let [...]
Woman canoeing at sunset on Jackfish Lake, Manitoba.

What I Learned at Young Adult Cancer Camp

How did I get myself into this? Shooting down glacial runoff in class four rapids with nothing between me and drowning, but a plastic orange kayak? Me, whose idea of an athletic challenge is taking an intermediate yoga class instead of beginner. Obviously, I misunderstood when I signed up for kayaking camp. I had envisioned [...]