Living with Cancer

Making the right choices will help you succeed.

Don’t believe the adage that cancer equals death. According to the National Cancer Institute, as of January 2019, there were an estimated 16.9 million cancer survivors in the U.S. The number of cancer survivors is projected to increase to 22.2 million by 2030. 

Do cope with cancer one day at a time. It may seem like an overwhelming task, but when you break it up into small pieces, just what you must face each day, it is much easier.

Don’t try to “go it all alone.” Tell those closest to you what is happening and allow them to help you. You may find it useful to join a group with people who have the same challenge - they will understand what you are feeling, and you can see how they are managing the same issues. Groups are not for everyone, but it doesn’t hurt to give one a try.

Don’t be embarrassed to seek help. It is not a sign of weakness but emotional strength. Some people like talk therapy and find talking to a counselor very helpful. Others like relaxation, meditation, art therapy, massage, yoga - all are helpful, and it is a personal preference.

Do reexplore spiritual or religious beliefs that may have been helpful in the past, including prayer which is a comfort to those from several religious traditions. It may help to seek out a counselor from your faith. Others find equal help from philosophical and secular traditions. Finding others who share the same spiritual beliefs often provides a group of people who are supportive and understanding.

Do find an oncologist with whom you can ask questions and feel like a partner in your treatment plan. This is not always possible, and in such situations, find a member of the oncology team with whom you can talk, like the nurse, social worker, or mental health person.

Excerpts from chapter 6, The Human Side of Cancer: Living with Hope, Coping with Uncertainty, by Jimmie C. Holland, M.D., Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Sheldon Lewis. Harper Collins, 2001.