Inspiring & Hopeful
Many cancer patients find comfort and inspiration through the words and experiences of others. According to the American Cancer Society, connecting with other patients and sharing experiences — positive or negative — can make a difference in your mental health during and after treatment.
Read below for quotes from cancer patients and survivors about treatment and not losing hope.
Going through cancer treatment is emotionally and physically exhausting, but “staying positive” is a double-edged sword. Cancer is hard. Really hard. Staying positive can be easier said than done, but making connections through cancer patient stories can help you cope. Read quotes from cancer survivors about staying positive while living with cancer.
From noticing those early symptoms to getting an official diagnosis, cancer presents a lot of uncertainty. Jillian J., a synovial sarcoma survivor, understands how difficult the diagnosis can be, but she offers words of hope.
When you’re diagnosed, that’s the worst of it. The initial diagnosis is so traumatic. All the unknowns and everything being so new is so hard.
It will get better.Jillian J., synovial sarcoma
Jamie K., a papillary thyroid cancer survivor, understands that staying positive means more than just putting on a happy face. Staying positive means being in touch with your feelings and being open and honest.
Just stay positive. Let people in that are going to be there for you because it helps to talk, it helps to cry, it helps to laugh, just take it all in and realize that whatever happens, you’re going to be okay.Jamie K., papillary thyroid cancer
Cancer patients have two choices: focus of the negative or acknowledge the negative and focus on the positive. Cindy S. chose the second option.
I knew I could start to fret and think about the negative. I could start worrying and wondering about what I did to cause it. I had a choice. I could do that, or I could stay positive.
I’m an optimistic person, anyway. I knew if I started dwelling on the negative, that was going to make it worse.Cindy S., Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia
Jason F. adopted a Zen approach and has focused on the things he can change as opposed to the things he can’t.
What’s in my control is taking care of myself and being healthy. I’ve found peace and solace in knowing I’m doing my part and I’ve found this in the fact that whatever will happen will happen.Jason F., Hodgkin lymphoma, stage 2A
Scott C. offers some words of wisdom for cancer patients. He says it’s equally important to embrace sadness and anger — without letting it consume you. Cancer caregivers want to support you but may not realize that staying positive doesn’t mean burying your other feelings.
Positivity is my magnetic north. It’s not a simplistic approach. It’s a very nuanced response. There are people I call the “Positivity Taliban.” They want to tell you that you can never feel anything negative and have to squash reality. That’s not true.
You need to feel what you need to feel…You won’t get anywhere by suppressing them. You should feel sad. You shake hands with sad. You give it a cup of tea and sit down with it, but you just don’t let it move in with you.
Feel it and when you have the cathartic moment of watching the sun come up the next day, that’s your cue. You have to get up and get going because you have things to do.Scott C., multiple myeloma
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
It’s okay to ask your loved ones for help and it’s okay to tell them what you need. It’s okay to join a support group. Research shows that cancer support groups and having a caregiver can improve your quality of life during and after treatment.
Let people help. People want to help you. This one woman I know said, “I just want you to know I’m thinking about you.” People will do what they can for you.Susan R. ovarian cancer
Evan L., an ALL survivor, reminds us of the importance of using your support system.
You will get through it. If you have friends and family around you, definitely lean on them. They will be there for you no matter what the case may be.Evan L., acute lymphoblastic lymphoma
Just keep your head up. Stay positive. I think it’s very important that you know you will get through it. It’s just time, it’s just patience, and protocol.
There are many great doctors and nurses out there that are on your side and they’re going to get you through it. It does get better.
Hair loss quotes from cancer survivors
A famous Joni Mitchell song reminds us that “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” It wasn’t about hair loss, but the sentiment rings true for cancer patients.
Due to the follicle-killing power of certain chemotherapy drugs, approximately 65% of cancer patients will experience some form of hair loss and 47% of women cancer patients say that hair loss is one of the most challenging side effects of treatment. Genoa M. explains the complex emotions that accompany hair loss and making the decision to cut her hair.
I did not understand my relationship with my hair until I was diagnosed. I think the times I broke down and cried over my diagnosis were triggered because I knew my hair was going.
I needed to kind of get control back a little bit.Genoa M., breast cancer
Callie M. knew it was coming. It was difficult, but she tried to make the most of it and have fun with her hairdresser.
I was trying to keep this brave face, but then the next morning I went to wash my hair, and it was coming out in clumps. I knew this was coming.
I had prepared. I had cut it short. Still, I bawled like a baby. You know it’s coming, you think you’re prepared, but it doesn’t sink in until it happens.
I called my hairdresser, and she shaved it for me. She did a mohawk first. It was awesome to have fun with it, but the hair loss was probably the most emotional thing for me.Callie M., breast cancer
Learn how hair loss can be empowering
Amelia L. decided that hair loss was a time to take back power, regain control, and get ready for ‘battle’.
When I lost my hair, I had a new confidence. I don’t know what it was, but maybe it was the ‘battle’ mentality. I was really confident with my short, buzzed haircut. That stuck with me for a long time. I don’t get nervous anymore. It’s almost like the opposite of the story of Samson. When they cut his hair, he lost his power, right? When I cut my hair, I felt like I gained so much power.Amelia L., Breast cancer
Veronica experienced a similar transformation.
I used to cry when I asked for a trim and got more off than I expected. This time around, it wasn’t as big of a deal.
It was more liberating than anything.
It was more depressing for me to wake up with hair on my pillow than for me to just go ahead and get rid of it.Veronica B., acute lymphoblastic leukemia
Hair loss is temporary
For most patients, hair loss caused by chemotherapy is only temporary. Charlie B. offers some words of hope about hair loss.
Have faith that it will return. There were several times that I was unsure because of male pattern baldness in my family. I was scared that it wouldn’t come back as good as it once was.
Do what you have to do to get through the now. Worry about that stuff later because it will likely come back. Hair loss is almost always a temporary thing. In the meantime, you can have fun with lots of different wigs.Charlie B., Hodgkin lymphoma
Choosing to see the positive can make a difference in how you look and feel about hair loss. Keyla S. made the best of a tough situation.
The hair loss on my face was more difficult because I have always had very thick eyelashes and eyebrows so I didn’t enjoy that by any means, but they start to grow back between each cycle so I know they’ll come back quickly. It’s definitely nice not having to shave my legs though!Keyla S., non-Hogkin lymphoma
Cancer survivors on hats and wigs
Hats and wigs have the power to transform. Michele G. remembers having fun and wanting to feel beautiful.
[Losing hair] does take an emotional and mental impact, because you do want to feel beautiful. But having that support system is just so key in helping with that. I also did look into wigs and had fun with it…new day, new hair.
But also when people came to visit me, I’d just go bald or wear a hat. I’m very into hats and I have a collection now.Michele G., acute myeloid leukemia
Many cancer patients experience a feeling known as ‘scanxiety‘, referring to the anxious feelings leading up to scans during and after treatment. Anxiety involves a surge of adrenaline that can create the ‘fight or flight’ response.
I have been in remission for two years, and the weeks leading up to a scan paralyze me. I become so scared because I do not want to fight this disease a third time. I fear losing my job, my hair, my school. I fear losing the sense of control.Fabiola L., Hodgkin lymphoma
Even though scan anxiety is very real, William reminds us that having a positive outlook can help you go into your scan feeling a little more relaxed.
If you just say out loud the best and worst case scenarios, it helps you ground yourself and realize where you are. It’s something that every cancer patient faces.
Whenever you’re going back in to get a scan or check your status, it’s anxiety-ridden. The best way to cope is to keep a strong head and have a good mindset and believe that things will turn out the way they’re supposed to.William Y., acute lymphoblastic leukemia
Shari turns an anxious moment into a positive. She advocates for doing something fun leading up to the scan. She and her spouse take a mini-vacation, which gives them something to look forward to, instead of dread.
We tend to plan our vacations around the time of the scans. Sometimes, we’ll go right before a scan. I might be on a two-week cruise and two days later, I’ll have a scan. Other times, we’ll schedule a trip for right after a scan.
We do that because we figure if I get a really bad scan result, and I have to change my treatment, it’d be really nice to have a break from life beforehand. We have gone on a two-week trip every year since my diagnosis and a bunch of little ones in between. I would rather look forward to the next trip than dread the next scan. That’s helped both of us. It’s always in the back of your mind, but that helps.Shari S., breast cancer
Heidi and Crystal look forward instead of looking back and make the most of every minute.
I do not assume that I am “cured.” I do not know if that will ever be the case. I live my best life from scan to scan, which has been a challenge during the pandemic.
As scan day approaches, I do feel scanxiety, which is just a euphemism for anticipatory terror.Heidi N., lung cancer
I don’t see my life as a regular timeline now. I see it as before, during, and after cancer. For me, I have a different outlook. I try not to take anything for granted because I know life can change in an instant.Crystal Z., non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Life After Cancer
Survivorship is filled with joy and positivity, but also anxiety and guilt. Read survivors’ stories about life after cancer. Rach D., a breast cancer survivor, says that even if the cancer is gone, the effects linger, emotionally and physically.
I thought in my mind, “Oh, you go through chemo and then you’re done.” No, because then you still have all these other treatments that can change you day to day. There’s a whole new world you go into now.
People assume you are done with everything, you’re cured. There’s no such thing as the word ‘cured,’ which is why there’s people advocating for more cancer research.Rach D., breast cancer
Clay expresses gratitude for every day. He says that he came out of the cancer experience a stronger, renewed man.
Where I am today, oddly, is grateful. I’m thankful for all these things I’ve been through. They’ve made me a different and better person. Not totally different, but I’m a different version of myself.
I got to decide who I wanted to be post-treatment. This person is a little bit different than I was before.Clay D., multiple myeloma
Advocating for yourself, for others, and sharing your story changes lives. Many patients find comfort and solace through shared experiences. Hugo found healing power through sharing his story.
It took me a while to realize how powerful it can be to share your story. I urge anyone out there, if you’re going through this yourself, I’ve found that it is really mentally healing to share. The people you can connect with make you realize you’re not alone.Hugo T., Colon cancer
Through that shared experience, cancer patients and survivors can find understanding and empathy that even the most compassionate caretakers are unable to offer.
But when you connect with someone that also has just cancer in general, whether it be breast or any of it, we understand each other in a way that others can’t understand us and we understand a different outlook on life, that others can’t understand.Ashley R., lung cancer
Becoming an advocate for yourself or for others can change lives. Cancer patients are sometimes afraid to speak up or don’t ask questions about treatment options. Survivors say — speak up!
You are your own person—the only person that will go through this physically, and you have every right to share and provide yourself with every ounce of control. Your voice is your power.Nina L., non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Put your needs first. Take care of yourself. Be kind to yourself, says Maurissa, an ovarian cancer survivor.
I just want to say God bless you, and I’m really sorry that you’re dealing with this. It is a shocker you know, but I think in life things are never as bad as we imagine them to be.
Given a diagnosis is a gut punch for sure. You have to believe that you’re strong enough, that you’re able to get through it.
Advocate for yourself, this is the time. Particularly women, this is the time to be selfish and to think about yourself and to put your needs first.Maurissa M., ovarian cancer
It’s okay to talk about it
Cancer sometimes feels like a taboo topic. The word scares many. The NIH even conducted a study on how the term can scare people into inaction. Talking about it can empower others in your community to get screenings and seek treatment when something doesn’t seem right.
I think self-advocacy is important, especially among men of color, because it’s something you just don’t talk about.Clarence S., Prostate cancer
Many patients we have talked to say that being your own advocate is the best way to get the treatment and care you need and deserve. Although most patients have a support system, Greg S. reminds us that the power is in the patient’s hands.
Steve’s message to men (and women) is that it’s okay to feel pain, and it’s okay to talk about your feelings. Downplaying the patient experience can be a destructive element.
It’s destructive to men to make them feel like they’re a wuss if they talk about their pain. I do not agree or subscribe to that at all. I live and speak very openly and encourage others to do the same.
Being an advocate is one of the ways I have made lemonade out of the lemons life has given me.Steve R., prostate cancer
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