13 Characteristics Worth Cultivating When Diagnosed With Cancer

by Jane Ashley

The diagnosis of cancer is often a shocking and traumatic experience, but we have to deal with the diagnosis. It has to be treated — ready or not; cancer doesn’t wait.

Cancer Diagnosis

So how do we cope? How do we learn to deal with the physical consequences of our diagnosis and the emotional ups and downs?
Part of the way that we cope is with cultivating and enhancing characteristics that we have, but that may lie hidden and seldom used. We all have these traits, and with a little coaxing and development, we can bring these attributes to the surface.

1. Common Sense. Good “ole” common sense can help prevent you from falling for scams and fake cures. Common sense is the 6th sense that people develop — it’s good, sound judgment gained from experience, not books. If something that someone tells you about cancer or its treatment seems too good to be true, it probably is. No diet will cure cancer. No spa treatment will cure cancer. And this saying is not true — it’s not cancer that kills, it’s the chemo — when someone says this to you, run (don’t walk) away.

Common Sense

2. Compassion. Compassion is having a deep feeling of sympathy or sorrow for someone who experiences adversity. Compassion is what all of us here at WhatNext have — we are truly sorry that someone else is experiencing what we have experienced. We look at that new face in the chemo room and realize that it’s their first chemo, and they are scared to death. We might speak to them with an encouraging thought if we are close enough. If we make eye contact, we’ll give them a smile and a nod, acknowledging that we understand how they feel.

3. Courage. Having courage and being brave are assets to anyone diagnosed with cancer. Courage is the ability to do something that scares you. Having chemo or immunotherapy requires courage. It takes courage to keep going to those daily radiation sessions. And to say that it requires courage to face surgery is an understatement. Surgeries are often long and complicated — the surgery leaves us with lifelong scars and disfigurements, but these surgeries are frequently the only option for a potential cure.


4. Creativity. Why you might ask, would creativity be useful if we’re diagnosed with cancer? Creativity is the ability to transcend traditional ideas and rules. Creativity is often associated with art, but creativity helps us transform the hopelessness and despair that we experience into a more positive outlook. Creativity helps us adapt to physical changes in our life — how to put on makeup to disguise a scar, how to manage an ostomy more effectively, and the obvious, create art of all sorts to distract us from the tough realities that we face.

5. Determination. Being resolute to stay the course during treatment and not give up can save your life. Determination helps us realize that a setback is not losing the battle or war. Setbacks require adjustments, so we must remain determined and keep on the course.

6. Faith. Faith, whatever our belief, strengthens many people during their cancer journey. Whether we are Christians, Jewish, Muslim, or believe in a Higher Source, faith in a higher being, and the order of life provide comfort and inspiration.

7. Grit. “True grit” will get us through the roughest spots. Grit is a blend of perseverance, courage, strength, and will to stay the course to reach a lofty goal. We’ve all hit that brick wall when we wanted to curl up in a corner. But, grit is that deep, nagging spirit within us that urges up to get back up and keep on going.

8 . Intuition. Intuition is that “gut” feeling — something that we know instinctively, without having to think about it. Intuition may have first guided you that something wasn’t right with your body. You may have had a nagging feeling that prompted you to seek another opinion that leads to your cancer diagnosis. Intuition helps guide us through treatment and afterward. No one knows our bodies better than we do. So when things don’t feel right, trust your intuition, and talk to your medical team.

9. Motivation. Cancer surely requires the motivation to go to chemo every two or three weeks. It takes a huge amount of motivation to go to daily radiation and get your throat, breast, or bum baked. Every part of cancer treatment is difficult, and there is no immediate reward. We have to trust in our medical team that the reward will come once our treatment is completed.

10. Physical Fitness. Being physically fit at the beginning of treatment is a blessing that no one should ignore. The daily grind of treatment takes a toll on our bodies. We need to do our best not to become couch potatoes. We need to remain as active as possible because activity helps prevent loss of muscle mass and strength.

11. Resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity. While resilience is somewhat inherited in all of us because every human has the will to live if we’re drowning or encounter a bear in the woods, resilience is also an acquired attribute. Those of us who encounter adversity growing up and in our young adulthood seem to cope better with the diagnosis of cancer. But it’s never too late to learn how to adjust to whatever cancer throws at us quickly.

12. Self-Esteem. Everyone needs to have self-esteem — that inward confidence that we have in ourselves. When cancer strikes, self-esteem is even more important. Cancer can leave us disfigured and scarred. But treatment-related physical changes don’t change who are; self-esteem lets us transcend outward appearances. It may require a period of adjustment, but we will regain our “mojo” and carry on.

13. Sense of Humor. We’ve heard that “laughter is the best medicine.” A sense of humor helps us get over the bumps and potholes in life’s road. Maintaining our sense of humor enables us to see some of the ironies of life as navigate through the complicated life as a cancer patient.
We don’t need all of these skills to make it through our cancer experience, but cultivating just a few of these attributes will make our lives easier and more fulfilling.

Laughter Is The Best Medicine

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