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Cancer > How to Manage Cancer

Finding Support When You Have Cancer

Tips for Coping With Cancer
Tips for Coping With Cancer

Coping with cancer is challenging. It may be helpful to talk to others about what you're experiencing and how you’re feeling emotionally.

Sharing can help you feel closer and get support from your friends and family. It may even help you sort through your own thoughts and help you solve problems.

It’s not always easy to talk about your feelings

When you talk to your family and friends about your cancer, they may not always know what to say. They may be nervous about saying the wrong thing, and decide to say nothing at all. If you’re ready to talk to your family and friends about your experience, you may want to start the conversation yourself. If you want to share but aren’t quite ready, it is OK to say so, and explain that you may want to talk later.

Honesty is a good policy

When you’re dealing with cancer, sometimes it may seem easier to just put on a smile and act as if everything is OK. But you don’t need to pretend to be cheerful all the time for the benefit of others. In fact, being honest with yourself and others can help you work through your emotions. If you hide how you are truly feeling, it can get in the way of receiving help when you need it. Think about how you currently approach conversations with others. Do you put on a brave face or just stay silent? When you’re ready to sit down and talk about your cancer diagnosis or treatment, be as honest as you can and talk about any negative feelings you may have, not just the positive ones.

Handling anger and frustration

Dealing with your condition can often mean dealing with anger and frustration. And you may unintentionally take it out on the people who mean the most to you. Try to understand the real source of your anger. Are you afraid for your future or nervous about your treatment? Are you worried about your finances or becoming a burden to your loved ones? Understanding or talking through your emotions like these may help you work through them.

When you’re not ready to share

There are helpful benefits to sharing your experience with others, but there may be times when you’re not ready to share. At those times, you can gently say that you’re not ready to talk about things right now. Even if you don’t want to share your feelings with others, it may still be helpful to find a way to express yourself. Writing down your feelings may help you to work through your emotions.

Consider carrying around a small notebook to write in whenever you feel the need. There are also apps on your phone and websites where you can write privately or share your thoughts and feelings with others.

If you're not sure what to write about, it may be helpful to ask yourself some questions to reflect on. Some examples may be:

  • How am I feeling today—physically and emotionally?
  • Were there times today when my condition stopped me from doing the things I enjoy or from meeting any of my responsibilities? How did that make me feel?
  • Were there any situations I wish I had handled or reacted to differently? What would I have done differently?

These are only a few examples. Think about what you would want to get from writing down your thoughts and feelings. If writing or keeping a journal is helping you to manage your feelings, or to talk to others, then keep at it for as long as you find it useful.

Cancer support groups can be a good way to find people to share with

Consider finding a support group of people who are also living with cancer. You may find that it is easier to talk with someone who understands firsthand what you are going through.

Take your time

It may take some time for you to feel comfortable sharing your feelings—and likewise for your friends and family. Give it time and work at it slowly. You may discover that trying some of the tips we have provided here will make talking and sharing with others easier.