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Each cancer experience is personal. Life does not stop while you are going through treatment. Other sickness or sudden events can take place and add extra demands on you and the people you love during and after treatment. How do survivors cope? Where do they get their strength from? Read more to find out how and where some cancer survivors have found strength during hard times.

​​​ What is Strength?

Finding strength is moving forward even when we feel afraid, sad and unsure. Strength can come and go; it is not constant. You can be strong even when you don’t feel brave. Finding strength is being able to live with feeling scared or uncertain about what will happen next.

Finding strength is not forcing an upbeat viewpoint. It is accepting that the cancer experience is hard and that it can feel like too much to deal with at times.

Finding strength can also mean letting go of control and being open. Letting go of what you know and what feels safe can be hard. You may feel like you are facing an altered world, with new rules and a new language. You may also feel unsure of being able to cope and face the demands of cancer and cancer treatment.

For friends and family members, finding strength may be coping with the health care of a loved one while sometimes feeling sad and helpless.

​​​ The Hardships of Facing Cancer

Cancer can affect all parts of your life. You may go through difficulties that are emotional, mental, physical and practical.

Emotional and mental hardships may include:

  • Feeling helpless because you can’t control parts of your life.
  • Waiting for results, appointments and treatment.
  • Not knowing if the cancer treatment is working.
  • Not feeling normal or like you used to.
  • Feeling alone.
  • Having faith and trust in a medical system that you may feel has failed you in the past.
  • Having friends and family who may not know what to say, what to do or how to relate to what you are going through.

Physical hardships may include:

  • Dealing with the physical effects of the cancer and treatment, like pain or fatigue.
  • Feeling different in your body.
  • Looking different (hair loss, weight loss or gain, scars, etc.).
  • Being patient with changes in your body or facing what has been called a “new normal” (changes that don't go away and become part of your life going forward).

Practical hardships may include:

  • Losing your routine at home or work.
  • Being in a new world that is medical and not what you are used to.
  • Being away from work.
  • Having money problems because you are not working and/or because of treatment related costs.
  • Losing your sense of freedom by not having energy to run errands, clean the house or visit friends.

​​​ Ways of Finding Strength

People find strength in diverse ways. You can find strength in yourself, in others or in things you can do.

Be aware of your feelings and needs.

  • Get to know yourself and share your feelings with others.
  • Work through your feelings of frustration or fear.
  • Believe in and be honest with yourself.
  • Set limits for yourself and others.
  • Tell others what you are thinking and feeling.
  • Use humour.
  • Find a new meaning to life based on what you have been through.
  • Know that cancer is not a failure. You did not cause your disease.

Reach out to people around you.

  • Ask for help and support when you need it.
  • Build a support circle of family, friends, work colleagues, fellow survivors or health care professionals.
  • Attend support groups to meet people going through cancer.
  • Make a bond with other survivors so you feel less alone and can learn from each other.

Do things you enjoy or that make you feel good.

  • Read, paint, watch TV, play a game. Do something you enjoy that helps you feel normal or distracts you from cancer.
  • Learn to relax during times of stress by trying meditation, exercise, yoga, breathing techniques, or massage.

​​​ Benefits of Finding Strength

Finding strength can help protect you from everyday stress, anxiety and depression. Caring, positive relationships and sharing with others can be helpful during a time of stress and can relieve some of the pressure on you. Simple acts, such as making meals, being social and being active can be healing and help you feel more like yourself.

Many people who find strength after a cancer diagnosis feel a sense of growth and a new meaning to life after they have gone through the hardest of times. ​


​​​ Resources

The resources listed here were added by Michelle Snow, Patient Education Librarian, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and ELLICSR Cancer Survivorship Centre.

Support Groups & Programs

  • Princess Margaret Calendar of Events
    See the Patients and Family Events calendar and find events, support classes, activities and conferences for patients and caregivers.
  • Wellspring Cancer Support Network
    Wellspring is a network of community-based centres that offer programs providing support, coping skills, and education to cancer patients and their families.
  • Gilda's Club
    This site will introduce you to a program of social and emotional support that benefits anyone living with cancer. Men, women and children diagnosed with cancer and their family and friends are always welcome here.
  • Psychosocial Oncology & Palliative Care - Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
    This department at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre helps to treat pain and other physical and emotional symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, and assist patients and their families in managing the complexities of having cancer.
  • Spiritual Care - Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
    Spirituality can help you maintain your health and cope with difficult experiences. It can help you find meaning, value and connection, especially during difficult times.

Meditation & Relaxation

  • Patient & Family Libraries' Online Catalogue
    View the UHN online library catalogue to see if there is a book, DVD, audio book, electronic book or CD that may interest you. We have many resources on relaxation, guided imagery and meditation. Please visit the library to obtain these resources.
  • The Healing Journey Program
    The Healing Journey is a Wellspring program for people who want to learn how to help themselves when they have cancer. This program provides simple, psychological and spiritual tools which promote inner harmony, peace and healing.
  • Relaxation Techniques to Relieve Stress
    This pamphlet will teach you ways to relax to help you manage stress and reduce your anxiety.

For more information visit the Princess Margaret Patient & Family Library or call 416 946 4501 ext. 5383.​ ​​​​

Last reviewed: 1/9/2020
Last modified: 1/23/2024 10:12 AM
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