7 mins. read

How to stay positive with cancer

Staying positive cancer Perci Health (1)

Key Takeaways

  • You won’t always feel positive: It’s okay if you don’t always feel happy and aren’t outwardly cheerful. It’s important to feel and process all the emotions you’re experiencing, including grief, worry and anger – even while trying to stay positive.
  • You are your best advocate: No one knows you as well as you know yourself so don’t be scared to ask questions, reach out to others, and set boundaries. This will help you feel more in control and make choices that benefit your wellbeing and mindset.
  • Take small steps: It isn’t always easy to reframe your way of thinking, especially when dealing with something as life-altering as cancer. However, count every little change you make and every instance of progress as a victory. These small steps soon add up and can make a significant difference to the way you feel.

When you are diagnosed with cancer, it can feel like everything changes. You may not be able to do the things you used to, treatment can take a physical toll, your relationships with family and friends can change and you might feel you’re treated differently. It’s also common to feel uncertain about the future, and experience complex emotions as a result, so it’s expected that your mindset might not always be positive.

People living with cancer often describe feeling pressure to ‘keep their chin up’ or ‘think happy thoughts’ but this can be incredibly challenging. This guide from Perci Health shares some ideas for staying positive after a cancer diagnosis, while still honouring all your feelings.

What do we mean by ‘staying positive’?

It’s important to remember that you don’t always have to be positive. Feeling frightened or nervous about treatment, as well as what a cancer diagnosis means for your future, is expected. However, having a positive outlook can help you to feel in control and make navigating diagnosis, treatment, and life beyond cancer, a little bit easier. For the purposes of this guide, ‘staying positive’ means acknowledging the situation and all the emotions that come with it, but choosing to adopt a ‘glass half full’ approach when possible.

Things that can help you to stay positive with cancer

You know yourself best. There may be days where being positive is much harder than others, or times in which it’s better to address your fear, anger and sadness rather than put on a brave face.

If you find yourself struggling to recognise anything good in your day, think about what made you happy before your diagnosis. Consider anything that you feel physically and mentally strong enough to do that could change your mindset, such as exercise, spending time on a hobby or seeing loved ones. 

If you’re unsure about what might help lift your spirits, that’s okay. Consider the following suggestions.

Surround yourself with positive people

It can be easier to have a more optimistic outlook when you spend time in the company of positive people. This doesn’t mean those that say, ‘Everything will be okay’ but rather, the people you can be yourself with and who support you during tough times.This could be a friend who has you laughing within minutes, or a family member who makes you feel lighter and validates what you’re going through.

Make time for things you enjoy

The things you like to do and activities that bring you joy can fall by the wayside when you’re living with cancer. But making time for these things can help you refocus on the good in your life. You could also take the opportunity to try something new, whether that be a craft, a hobby or even something small like cooking a new recipe.

Focus on what you can control

After being diagnosed with cancer, it can feel like you aren’t in control of your own body or daily routine. This can be incredibly hard to cope with, especially as an independent person.

When feeling this way, it can help to take a step back and look at the things in your life that you can control, regardless of how small they are. For instance, it may be that you carry out a daily skincare routine to help alleviate the dry skin you are experiencing because of chemo. Or you may focus on eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day so that you feel you are nourishing your body.

Practice meditation

Some people find meditating a valuable way to process internal emotions, reduce anxiety, ground themselves and reset their thought patterns. It doesn’t have to be something you do for a long period; even five minutes a day can have a positive impact.

Find somewhere quiet and sit in a comfortable position. Focus on your breathing and pay attention to each breath in and out. Whenever you feel your mind wandering, return to focusing on your breath. When you are ready to finish, start to concentrate on how your body feels and gently bring yourself back to your physical environment.

Connect with the cancer community

Speaking to other people who understand what you are going through can be a positive way to share experiences, find support and get advice. It can also help you feel less alone. 

There is a range of cancer charities and organisations that you can reach out to. Some have physical locations where you can meet others affected by cancer in person and many, such as Macmillan, have online communities where you can discuss your circumstances and how you feel, as well as get questions answered by professionals.

Practice reshaping your mindset

Staying positive isn’t necessarily straightforward and takes practice, but reframing situations step by step can help.For example, it’s normal to fear chemotherapy or experiencing unpleasant side-effects after treatment. It can help to focus on the positives, for instance, recognising your own strength and resilience, and celebrating after each round.

If you need help with daily tasks, you might feel frustrated and even resentful about losing independence. Some people find focusing on spending more time with the person that is assisting them, to be helpful.

Speak to a specialist

Talking to a specialist about your cancer diagnosis can help you feel more informed and understood, which in turn can make you feel more positive.

If you haven’t already, find out who your point of contact will be throughout your treatment. This is usually a Cancer Nurse Specialist (CNS) who will be able to answer questions about your specific circumstances and tell you what to expect.

You can also seek professional mental health support if you are struggling to process your emotions or find yourself unable to overcome a period of low mood. A psychologist will provide you with a safe, confidential space where you can talk openly, and give you the tools to make sense of your unique experience with cancer.At Perci Health, we also offer a range of other support types that can help those living with or beyond cancer to process their personal circumstances, feel more in control of their life and reframe their experience step by step. We provide virtual access to specialists including clinical exercise coaches, counsellors and dieticians.