Coping Strategies for Cancer

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

When you or someone you care about has been diagnosed with cancer it's challenging to take in all the ramifications. This lesson discusses some coping techniques you can put into practice during this time.

Being Diagnosed with Cancer

When you're first diagnosed with cancer, you and others can find it challenging to take in all the information that the medical professional is telling you. The diagnosis can be overwhelming but one of the first things you should do is to get all the information possible and make sure you ask all the questions you can. Knowledge is power in this instance, so taking a moment to understand the particular cancer and its treatment, as well as the procedures needed, is essential. Cancer can make you feel like life is out of control, so getting all the information you need to structure the next few months can ease this stressful time. Structuring is scheduling your days and weeks with a steady approach so that everything has a foundation.

Finding Support

Find Stress Relief in Support

Another thing to remember when hit with a cancer diagnosis is that it's not wise to walk away from supportive people. Although cancer is scary and can worry loved ones, it's still not good for you or the loved ones if you completely turn inward and no longer seek help. There are times in everyone's life when they need help; this is one of those times, and it's perfectly okay to lean on others.

Search out support groups, which are groups of people who have experienced cancer themselves, or have loved ones that have. There are cancer support groups for different ages, different cancers, and even different cultures. Some may shy away from sharing their story with others in such a group, but most find the support structure key in coping with their cancer. Because the people in the group have been there or are still there, they have coping mechanisms, or skills in handling the challenges of cancer, that they can share with you. Additionally, knowing of the different stages of cancer through real life experiences is also helpful in understanding the process, which can bring you some peace in this troublesome time.

Coping Techniques for Cancer

You'll get a lot of advice during this time: some good, some not, and even if some of the advice is good, it may not work for everyone. However, there are some standard coping techniques that people experiencing cancer, terminal or not, have found helpful.

Communicate Clearly

Keeping in contact with doctors and friends and family is incredibly important. Sharing information ensures everyone knows what's happening and there's no miscommunication, which would only make a stressful situation worse.


Since cancer and all the medical treatments can make life feel busy and out of control, simplifying schedules and life can make things seem easier to handle. You should still schedule events and fun things to do - this is important - but so is knowing your limits and taking time to breathe and rest.

Control when Possible

Controlling what you can and letting go of what you can't is also a good coping technique. Cancer can't be controlled except through medical assistance. But a schedule can be controlled, making dinner can be controlled, and how a life is lived can be controlled. It's important not to try and control too much, but appreciating the events and things that can be managed will help you in handling your day-to-day living.

Be Selective in Friend Choice

Some people want to have dozens of friends and many of them bring in drama and other issues. When in the midst of a cancer battle, unnecessary drama in your life is too exhausting. So it's important to let go of the relationships that are becoming too draining. This may seem callous, but there won't be time to help everyone else and still take care of yourself.

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