Keeping well while living with cancer

Sometimes fighting cancer takes so much of a toll on us physically that there is not much energy left to nurture ourselves emotionally.  Here are some of the areas I talk with my patients about to help balance out their self-care.


  • If you feel it, share it.  Keeping those upsetting feelings to yourself will make you feel more burdened and overwhelmed.  Sharing your thoughts with another will not only help lift the burden off yourself, it will help you better understand your own experiences.  Furthermore, it will help your treatment team and caregivers understand your needs so that they can support you better.
  • Care about only what you can control.  Focus your attention on the things you can control.  Putting too much attention on the negative attributes of your situation will only cause more distress. Instead, try to turn the attention to the positives in your life and what you can personally impact.  
  • It’s not your fault.  Do not blame yourself for having cancer.  Instead use that energy to take better care of yourself, and focus on healing holistically.
  • Take the good with the bad. There will be good days and there will be bad. Remember, this was true before your diagnosis, too.  Live your happy days to the fullest and do something good for yourself on the more difficult days.  
  • You HAVE cancer, you are NOT cancer!  Cancer can take over your life at times, however, it need not be your life.  Be vocal and let others know when you want to flip the switch and discuss “other stuff.”  
  • Mind, body and spirit really matter.  Exercise, relaxation and eating well can be incredibly helpful in managing mood.  Our bodies are interconnected systems that work together for overall wellness.  When we take care of our basic needs, it boosts our energy and sense of wellness.
  • Make time for you. Try to carve out time to do the things that you enjoy.  If you find that your attention span is not what it used to be, do things for a shorter time, but do not give up the things that give you pleasure.
  • Take it one step at a time. When you are not feeling well, it can be easy to approach life in a “all or nothing” manner.  Do what you can, when you can and how you can.