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​​​Cancer can be very difficult on your body, mind, emotions and spirit. There are “little things” you can do that can help you cope. The “little things” can include everything from small actions to certain ways of thinking.

Cancer survivors have found that the following things help:

  • Listen to yourself
  • Take time for yourself
  • Accept what you can’t control and slow down
  • See positive change in yourself​

​​​ Listen to Yourself

After a cancer diagnosis, other people may offer you help and advice. You may also feel like others expect you to act or feel a certain way. Many cancer survivors have feelings of guilt when they are unable to act or feel the way they are expected to.

It is important for you to learn to listen to yourself and your needs. Even if you know yourself well, the needs of your body and mind may change. You may find that you need to get to know yourself and your limits all over again.

Although learning to listen to yourself sounds like a simple thing to do, many survivors find it difficult. With many demands like work and family-life, we often leave little time for our own needs.

Give yourself time to learn how to put your needs first by taking time for regular “check-ins” with yourself. Try to block off some personal time so you can get in touch with yourself, your needs, and the little things that matter to you.

​​​ Take Time For Yourself

Many survivors describe someone or something that they formed a special connection with and turned to when taking time for themselves. This special connection can help you cope with changes and any challenges you may experience.

Taking time for you can bring a sense of feeling normal or an escape when things get difficult. It can also help make the good times better.

Special connections can be made through:

  • Other people, such as your family, friends or another person who is in a similar situation as you.
  • A place, like your backyard or any other part in your home you call your own or your "safe place".
  • An object, such as a comb and the routine of combing that can be a symbol of hair growing back after treatment.
  • An activity or routine, like painting, listening to music or doing a familiar routine like waking up and making coffee.
  • Nature, like a nature reserve or park.
  • Faith or spirituality, such as a religion, beliefs and values.

​​​ Accept What You Can’t Control and Slow Down

Most people like being in control of their lives. After a cancer diagnosis, many things can be out of your control, from your everyday routine to changes to your mind and body. This can be difficult for anyone.

Many survivors say that their first reaction is to try taking back control. This meant forcing themselves to do things that were too much.

In retrospect they say the better approach is to: “…Let go of the things you can’t control and control the things you can.” For example, you may not be able to control the changes happening to your body, but you can control what you do with those changes.

Accepting what you can’t control takes time, but letting go of the need for control can help you slow down and allow you to find inner peace. Through letting go, you may start to notice more of what is around you. Survivors explain that simple things they do but often take for granted or little things they look at every day but don’t really "see" or appreciate, become more clear and meaningful.

​​​ See Positive Change in Yourself

A cancer diagnosis can seem to “flip your life upside down”. It can also lead to great personal growth and change. Cancer survivors describe a personal growth that transforms them into a different person – one who is stronger in body and mind than before. Some people may not see the positive changes in themselves or feel how empowering this change can be until later on in their cancer experience. This growth can happen over a short or long period of time. One survivor said, “Amidst a chaotic schedule of treatments and a bevy of family and friends, we had to learn to be self-reliant and fend for ourselves.” This independence can foster self-confidence and a deep sense of spirituality, and can be empowering. ​

​​​ Resources

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

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


Last reviewed: 1/9/2020
Last modified: 10/30/2023 12:17 PM
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