Authored by Revere Health

Coping with Cancer

May 4, 2017 | Cancer CenterMedical OncologyRadiation Oncology

A cancer diagnosis not only changes your life, but it also changes the life of those around you. Cancer in any stage is a stressful life event, and treatment methods like chemotherapy and radiation therapy can take a toll on you both physically and mentally.

Know that you aren’t alone during these tough times, and that there are always resources and support available to you as you cope.

Emotions and Self-Image

The physical challenges of cancer are difficult for everyone and so are the emotions that accompany a cancer diagnosis. Cancer can prompt a number of emotions you may be unfamiliar with and may not be prepared for. Know that all of this is normal and that no one close to you blames you for what you are feeling. Common emotional responses to cancer include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed or out of control
  • Denying a diagnosis
  • Feeling angry or asking, “Why me?”
  • Worrying about the future, or being scared of death
  • Stress, anxiety or depression
  • Guilt for upsetting or burdening the people you love
  • Loneliness or distance from others

Positive emotions can sometimes come to the forefront with cancer too, including hope (once a diagnosis has been processed and accepted) and gratitude (for some people, cancer can serve as an “awakening” in life). Whenever these feelings become too intense, try using a healthy coping strategy:

  • Express your feelings to understanding friends, loved ones or medical professionals—on your schedule, and when you want to.
  • Do your very best not to blame yourself—cancer can happen to anyone, and it isn’t your fault.
  • If you’re not feeling upbeat, don’t try to force it. Allow your real feelings to run their course.
  • Try to find the positive in as many situations as possible.
  • Relax when possible.
  • Find ways to be active and enjoy doing so, and emphasize other activities you enjoy.
  • Control what you can, and don’t dwell on what you can’t control.


Lifestyle Adjustments

A cancer diagnosis can affect many parts of your life including family, children, your spouse and daily activities. Healthy coping mechanisms can help as you work through these changes and the National Cancer Institute offers several resources for managing lifestyle adjustments.


Body and Self-Image

Cancer is often accompanied by changes to the body, and these can lead to poor self-esteem, negative body image and inhibited sex life. A few strategies to cope with some of these stressors include:

  • Focus on the ways coping with cancer has made you stronger.
  • Find new ways to enhance appearance such as new clothes or hairstyle.
  • Ask your doctor about skin care options if you’ve undergone skin changes after radiation therapy.
  • Ask for professional help with issues surrounding intimacy or sex, and be willing to tell your partner how it makes you feel.
  • Stay active.
  • Know that grieving changes in the body is perfectly normal, and it’s okay to feel angry or frustrated at these changes.
  • Find new ways to be intimate, including strengthening personal connection.


Post-treatment Adjustments

Cancer survival and the aftermath of treatment can be difficult as well. Outpourings of support that were present during treatment may dry up, and it can be tough to transition into a life after cancer. A few methods for coping here include speaking with your medical team about concerns and caring diligently for yourself—both mentally and physically. You can also invest yourself in resources regarding follow-up care and family issues after cancer treatment.

Caregiver Support

Having cancer is very difficult and stressful, and being a caregiver to a close friend or family member with cancer can have some of the same effects. Being a caregiver often involves a number of new daily tasks, which can take some adjustment. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, including from people who have been in a caregiver situation before.

In addition, caregivers need to take care of themselves adequately to provide the proper care:


  • Make personal time: Take time every day for yourself, and do whatever you enjoy during this time. Try to stick to a daily routine, and try never to reach a point where your personal life is nonexistent due to caregiver duties.
  • Attend support groups: These can be in person or via the internet or phone, and they’re very valuable for many people.
  • Learn: Finding out more about your loved one’s situation can ease the stress for some people.
  • Connect: Connection with a loved one is vital as a caregiver, as is connection with others.
  • Stay positive: Positivity can be tough to find, but being thankful for the good things you do have can make a difference.
  • Write in a journal: Journaling your feelings and stressors during the caregiver process can be healing for some.
  • Take care of your body: Caring for your body is vital, including regular exercise and proper diet. Don’t neglect any medications you may have, and try to get enough sleep. If you notice any signs of depression or anxiety, speak to your doctor.


If you or a loved one receive a cancer diagnosis, know that you have options available for coping in daily life. Speak to your doctor about a variety of potential topics, and don’t be afraid to involve other loved ones in your decisions.

*Note: No two cancer cases are alike. None of the statements herein are designed to suggest a “one size fits all” approach, and each case will be evaluated individually.


We provide the latest in cancer treatment and technologies, and our staff keeps up on the latest treatment methods. Each patient has different needs and treatment goals, and there isn’t just one way to treat cancer. We will work with you to determine the best treatment options and continue to adjust and monitor your dosage or care throughout your treatment.



“Coping With Cancer.”

“Coping with Cancer.” National Cancer Institute.

The Live Better Team


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.