Give In, Give Up, or Give It Your All

by Jane Ashley

A WhatNext member’s post prompted me to find out who proclaimed, “In life, you have three choices. Give in, give up or give it your all.” Charleston Parker, a self-taught theologian and author of One Soul, Many Faces , wrote this sage advice in 2013. 

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He probably didn’t have a cancer diagnosis in mind when he penned this quote, but his quote seems to check all of the boxes when we or a loved one has cancer.

Give In

The term, “give in,” has several different meanings. It can mean to stop arguing or fighting, yield to another’s wishes, surrender or to accept defeat admitting that there is nothing more you can do. Many of us react this way when first diagnosed.

According to, synonyms of “give in” include cave in, capitulate, concede, give up, quit, or surrender.

We know that feeling — being overwhelmed by such a daunting diagnosis and not knowing which way to turn. We have a “pity party” because it doesn’t seem fair. We ask, “Why me?” We think of people that we’ve known who died from their diagnosis and conclude, “It’s just not worth the effort because we’re going to die anyway.” 

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It’s normal, especially when we are first diagnosed, to want to “give in” to the enormity of our diagnosis. Fortunately, most of us settle down emotionally once we’ve gone through those stressful weeks of staging scans, biopsies and oncologist/surgeon/radiologist visits. Once we have a plan, it’s easier to dig in and commit to our treatment plan.

Give Up

What exactly is “giving up?” Definitions vary, but here are a few dictionary definitions:
• Cease making an effort
• Resign oneself to failure
• To cease doing or attempting something especially as an admission of defeat
• To stop trying to do something before you have finished, usually because it is too difficult

Side effects from treatment or complications after surgery may tempt you to give up. Fatigue, pain or frustration over slow progress can color our decision making and tempt us not to stay the course. 

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If you find yourself feeling like you want to give up, talk to trusted family members and your medical team so that you’ll make wise decisions that aren’t distorted by a temporary situation. A different nausea medicine, better pain control or a break from chemo give many patients the opportunity to regain their spirits and their strength to continue.

Don’t confuse “giving up” with a patient and their medical team making the decision to discontinue treatment. If a patient’s cancer continues to progress despite utilizing all available treatments, stopping treatment may be in the best interest of the patient and their family.

Give It Your All

To “give it your all” means that you fully embrace your treatment plan … that you try as hard as you can and give your medical team your full cooperation as they work to get you into a durable remission. Some physicians still use the word “cure” while others prefer NED (No Evidence of Disease).

What are some of the things that you’ll do when you “give it your all?”

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• Accept your diagnosis. We can “give it our all” until we accept our diagnosis. None of us asked for cancer. While it’s reasonable to experience anger and denial when we are first diagnosed, it is counterproductive to harbor negative feelings over the long haul. It’s okay to grieve and to feel afraid about how cancer may affect your life. However, we can’t change our diagnosis so accepting cancer is the healthiest response to diagnosis. Then we can say, “What Next?”
• Get an excellent medical team. With cancer, your doctor’s experience is of paramount importance. Their expertise with your particular kind of cancer may make the difference between life and death. Consider a second opinion to ensure that you’re comfortable with your treatment plan.
• Educate yourself. Be sure to use trusted sources to learn about your particular kind of cancer. Trusted sources include the American Cancer Society, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and well-respected cancer treatment centers like Mayo, MD Anderson, and Memorial Sloan Kettering. There are lots of “fake” cures that you might see online — shun them like the plague. Ask your doctor questions if you don’t understand. The more you know the basics of your treatment, the more comfortable and optimistic you’ll be.
• Understand your insurance and its financial implications. Cancer treatment is expensive. Most treatment centers have an insurance coordinator who will help you understand your insurance coverage and estimates of your copays for treatment. Ask about copay assistance — don’t be embarrassed. Financial aid is usually available for patients whose family income is up to 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. For example, a couple whose family income is up to $67,640 can usually qualify for some type of financial help. A family of four whose total income is up to $103,000 may be eligible for financial assistance. Patients may not be able to continue working during treatment so be proactive to learn about the costs associated with your treatment.
• Don’t borrow trouble. Worrying about what might happen tomorrow, next week or next month robs you of the joy that today might bring. “What ifs” can fill our minds with so much anxiety that we have heart palpitations and elevated blood pressure. Our oncology team is dedicated to caring for us — I realized during my active treatment that if they weren’t worried about a particular lab or scan result, then I shouldn’t be worried either. Do your best to live one day at a time and be happy for the tiniest good news or special happening.
• Cultivate a positive attitude. Cultivate means acquire or develop. So while we acknowledge that cancer is a serious diagnosis, we can cultivate a positive attitude. We can learn to appreciate the small gifts of daily life – that first sip of morning coffee, that it’s not raining or snowing on chemo day or that the anti-nausea medicate does work. An attitude of gratitude truly helps every day of your cancer treatment be a better day.

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Over 4,750 people daily are diagnosed with cancer in the United States. You are not alone. All of us at are here to help and support you. Give it your all.

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