Living Easing Your Mind as a Cancer Survivor
There are about 9 million cancer survivors in the U.S.
59 percent of them are older than 65.
million of them received a diagnosis of cancer between 5 and 15 years ago.
percent of them are breast cancer survivors.
percent of them are prostate cancer survivors.
believe that about 60 percent of the people who become cancer survivors
today can expect to be alive five years from now.
75 percent of children who get cancer today can expect to be alive in 5
In other words, our world is full of cancer survivors.
Most of us live our day-to-day lives knowing that death can
come at any moment, but we tend to keep that knowledge in the back of our minds.
When you get cancer, the notion of mortality becomes much more real. For many
people, it changes everything.
When you’re diagnosed with cancer, your treatment regimen
gives you a sense of purpose. There are clear goals to work toward—recovering
from surgery, getting through your radiation or chemotherapy treatments, if you
have them, building your strength back. But when the treatment is over, it’s
normal and common to feel lost, confused, scared, maybe depressed
In the book “It Is Not About The Bike,” champion
cyclist Lance Armstrong says that he had a “classic case of ‘now what’ ”
after he had finished with his cancer treatment. That’s normal—and not just
for Lance Armstrong.
There’s so much to deal with when you’ve had
cancer—changes in your body, more frequent (and possibly more nerve-wracking) medical appointments, changes in your
relationships, your work life, etc. We can’t possibly cover in one article
everything there is to being a cancer survivor, but maybe the best place to
start is with your mind. Because if you can start to feel better in your head,
it’s going to be easier to manage all the other things that you have to deal
How to ease your
A large part of being a survivor is learning to deal with
uncertainty. Questions such as:
my cancer come back?
it does, how serious will it be?
will I deal with my job and family responsibilities when I still feel weak
seems like everything is so stressful now, and part of getting well is
learning how to handle stress. How do I keep myself from getting too
stressed out now?
feel very down and sad. How can I go on like this?
Here are some things that have helped people manage these
kinds of fears. But remember, everybody is different, so choose the options that
seem to be a good fit with your personality and preferences.
Joining a cancer
support group. How does this help?
puts you in touch with people who “have been there,” and can tell you
what their experiences have been.
allows you to share your own feelings with people who understand. Expressing
your emotions with others is one way to help you feel better and ease your
concerns. And being in a cancer support group can help you feel less alone.
support groups include members of a cancer patient’s family. If you feel
as though it might be beneficial for you and your family to talk about your
cancer together, then this kind of support group might be for you.
helps you learn how to handle all the practical issues that are part of
being a cancer survivor.
active. How does this help?
have shown that regular physical activity can help reduce stress.
people find that being physically active, even when they’re feeling tired,
actually gives them more energy
activity is good for your body, and it’s especially nice for cancer
survivors to participate in something that can help improve their body
Talking with a
mental health professional. How does this help?
to the American Cancer Society, one in four cancer survivors struggles with
feelings of depression. If you are one of those, getting treatment from a
professional is the best way to help you get better faster.
if you don’t have specific depression, it could be that support groups are
not for you. In this case, meeting with a counselor to talk about how cancer
has affected your life may be very beneficial.
that help you handle stress, such as meditation, breathing exercises,
biofeedback, connecting or reconnecting with you religious or spiritual beliefs,
etc. How can this help?
people find these kinds of activities soothing and relaxing, because they
help you to focus on something “bigger than yourself” rather than on
can be helpful to get back to basics and focus on what your essential belief
system is, which can be a significant source of meaning and guidance for you
as you face all of life’s challenges, not just cancer.
Society; National Cancer Institute; L. Armstrong. It Is Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life. Putnam, 2000.