Staying Positive During Breast Cancer: 12 Tips from People Who Have Actually Lived It

Whether joining support groups or simply taking time to grieve, here’s how these breast cancer patients coped each day.

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Undergoing treatment for breast cancer can be physically and emotionally draining. Studies have found a higher than average prevalence of anxiety and depression among patients, which can have a palpable impact on their quality of life.  The patients HealthiNation interviewed made it clear: Everyone copes with a breast cancer diagnosis in her (or his) own way, and that way can change by the day, or even the hour. Here’s a look at what these nine patients had to say about staying positive throughout their breast cancer battle.

Find something meaningful to focus on

“Focus on something else. Focus on your children. Focus on your puppies. Focus on your health.”
—Leslie, diagnosed at 44

Appreciate the little things

“It’s actually really difficult to stay positive during such an intense time, but I think you really need to focus on just the little things. For instance, I started realizing how much my husband actually does for me, which it’s sad that it takes something like that, but he was so supportive and did everything, and you just start to realize all the little things in life and start being grateful for those things that often you would ignore and not even notice.”
—Rosanna, diagnosed at 31

It’s OK to feel down some days

“Some days you just wanna crawl in a hole and stay in bed—and that’s fine because people with the flu feel that way—but it takes a lot to keep yourself inspired.”
—Theresa, diagnosed at 44

Take time to grieve

“I think you have to understand and give yourself the moment to grieve for what you’re going through. I think that’s very important.”
—Nicole, diagnosed at 36

Use your personality to cope

“One of the aspects of coping with anything is you take your personality with you. Don’t abandon those personality traits just because you developed a disease. Use those personality traits to sustain you.”
—Mark, diagnosed at 55

Join a support group

“You might find joining a support group is helpful [for] gaining information [and] the camaraderie of the people who might be in a similar situation to you.”

—Jamie, diagnosed at 45

Find the beauty

“Whatever ugliness there is, you gotta turn it into beauty. You gotta make it funny in one way or another. You can’t give in to it. You can’t.”
—Doris, diagnosed at 37, 47, and 54

Expect and accept changes

“Life does change. You might do the same things, but the way you do them and how you do them changes.”
—Lisa, diagnosed at 46

Find the people who lift you up

“Surround yourself with the people who really lift you up, whose energy somehow contagiously transfers to you and makes you feel like you’re gonna be okay.”
—Sally, diagnosed at 40

Understand the emotional process

“What you want to do every day and how you feel every day changes every single day, and even within the day it changes. Yes, the night before I could be like, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to see my friend tomorrow,’ and then the day comes and I’m like, ‘I don’t want to move,’ and that’s okay. That’s part of the process.”
—Rosanna, diagnosed at 31

Find someone who understands

“I think that it’s very important to choose a strong-willed person, whoever that may be in your life, who’s gonna keep a smile on your face, who’s going to understand if you don’t wanna talk, and be there when you wanna talk.”
—Theresa, diagnosed at 44

Maintain normalcy

“You gotta maintain as much normalcy as you possibly can that you had in your life before your diagnosis. There’s BC—before cancer—and PC—post cancer—and they should almost be the same because your cancer will never define you.”
—Nicole, diagnosed at 36

A very special thanks to Susan G. Komen Greater New York City.