How We Survived Cancer?

We asked WhatNexter's how they survived cancer and below is a summary of what they said. A lot of things go into surviving cancer, the topics below are just a few of the things one might consider. The information here from WhatNext does not represent medical advice and all input is from WhatNext members themselves.

Relationship with Doctor

Some WhatNexter’s rave about the relationships they form with their doctors. A great doctor can be a huge relief when dealing with all the physical and mental stress of cancer. WhatNexter's build a foundation of trust and communication with their doctors and then decide a plan of treatment. Doctors can be a form of support and a useful resource. Some WhatNexter's say that their doctor's opinion was a big factor in their decision making and that a relationship build on trust made their journey easier. Many survivors say that it is okay to seek a second opinion whether it is because they are not comfortable with their current doctor or if they would like feedback from someone else to confirm their treatment plan.

Surviving Cancer

“The gynecologist from the hospital set me up with an appointment with a gynecological oncologist for surgery in another city who was an expert in ovarian and other gynecological cancer. He said that that if his mother had ovarian cancer, that doctor would be the one he would send her to for surgery. I read on the Internet that my surgeon was one of the top gynecological oncologists in the U.S.” -- cindy thumbnail Cindy, Ovarian Cancer, Stage II

“My oncologist was great! She really fought for me to get in and get all the necessary tests done. She also arranged for me to go to MD Anderson in Houston for more detailed tests to confirm diagnoses. After the initial diagnoses I talked to my oncologist about telling my children who were 5 and 7 at the time about my cancer and she suggested that I tell them and gave me a lot of information about my cancer, treatments for CLL, how to deal with it and tell your family. I also got in touch with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which was very helpful as well. The treatment team I was assigned was fantastic and I feel truly blessed to have such a hard working, patient, understanding team!” -- still_fighting thumbnail still_fighting, Leukemia

Look for second opinions when necessary or when you feel you need it. No doctor should be threatened by a patient seeking a second opinion. A good place to get a second opinion is a cancer research center or research hospital that will have access to the latest treatments and if necessary trial treatments. The more people you have on your team the better”. -- peroll thumbnail Peroll, Colon Cancer

Family and Friends

Family and friends are a common contribution to WhatNexter’s survival. Many say they could not have done it without the support of them. Some even say that they found out who their true loved ones were stuck with the ones that were cheering for them and supporting them unconditionally. Whether it's the visits, phone calls, gift baskets, prayers, or in home support, WhatNexter’s have been thankful for all the support they receive from the people around them.

I had the most wonderful husband who has been with me every step of this journey. My family, friends and work associates were wonderful! They listened when I was down but turned to me and told me I was strong enough to get through this and they were right!” -- DianaL, Invasive Lobular Carcinoma, Stage II

“This whole process of surgery and healing was traumatic to say the least. I had in home health care and a valiant wife to take care of me while I recovered. Without my wife and the "care nurse" I don't think I could have done it by myself. Just the maintenance on the compressor and fluid pump that I had to rent to keep my trachea functioning at a high level was overwhelming while I was recovering.” -- krbrowndog thumbnail krbrowndog, Throat Cancer

When I returned to work one of the security guards handed me a note and said, "I heard about your battle with pancreatic cancer and I just wanted to give you this prayer that I wrote for you." It was the cards, letters, phone calls, and emails from so many people. I saved every one of them, and pull them out around this time every year...they still tug at my heart.” -- russ thumbnail Russ, Pancreatic Cancer, Stage III

Help from Community

One of the things WhatNexter’s say was key to their survival was accepting the help offered from their community. They say it may be easy to be too proud and want to do it on your own, but if you let them help you then the results will be lifesaving.

When people ask if they can help, tell them what you need. Be specific. I was lucky in that I had help from friends and my community. Play dates for my daughter who was in grade 2 at the times, meals the week of surgery and the week of chemo, survivors calling me to tell me their stories (stories of hope, not fear), friends treating me as me instead of a victim, suggestions on what I would need post surgery such as button down tops, what to wear to radiation (2 piece outfits), offers to go to doctor appointments with me so I didn't have to go alone, and rides if I needed them.” -- karen1956 thumbnail karen1956, Breast Cancer, Stage IIIA

Oncologist social workers are valuable people to help with support of all kinds including resources for other help with money, gas cards from ACS, rides to treatment, help with insurance struggles, etc. CALL on people because they want to DO something. Just always remember to switch it to thinking like, "if it were my best friend…” and act from there!” -- daniC, Ovarian Cancer, Stage IIC

“In my 18-year journey fighting a Grade III Oligoastrocytoma, my support network has been crucial in myriad ways. I strongly urge newly diagnosed patients to let people help you. They may feel otherwise powerless in your cancer battle, as they want to take on that cancer for you but know they can't. Whether it's a meal, a ride to an appointment, or a shoulder to cry on, people love you and really do want to help.” -- fusionera thumbnail Fusionera, Brain Cancer

Practical Ways of Coping

For some, it is the little practical things that got them through their cancer treatment. Packing things they needed for chemotherapy, taking notes, keeping good records, and always trying to be prepared are some ways that helped them cope and survive.

“One thing I did that worked out well was to pack a "Chemo Bag" with crossword puzzles, knitting, snacks, a blanket, etc. and leave it in the hall closet. Each week, I could grab it just before chemo and have everything I needed to get through my 4-hour sessions.” -- ydnar2xer thumbnail Ydnar2xer, Breast Cancer, Stage I

Surviving Cancer 2

“I think probably the most helpful thing in dealing with all the info is that we had an expandable folder that we put all the info into, everything we received from the doctor and the insurance company, the pharmacy, everything! It became invaluable. If we needed to go back to anything, it was right there, in the folder. I even kept all the get well cards so I could have a pick me up when I needed one.” -- HeidiJo, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, Stage II

Personal Ways of Coping

Many of WhatNexter's survival tips come from their personal perspectives on cancer. Some say it was that they stayed positive or just found little personal ways that could get them through the day. Some come up with creative methods, some take up new hobbies, but most agree that not one exact method will work for everyone.

“As you have heard numerous times on this site, stay positive as much as you can. I set small goals to reach like making it to Easter, etc. I also have a strong connection to my horses and their spirit helped me keep going on days I wasn't so sure I would get through. I don't believe there is one sure method that will work for everyone. No matter what part of the journey you are currently in, don't give up. Fight, fight, fight.” -- spirithorse thumbnail spirithorse, Colon Cancer, Stage 0

“Several people burned candles for me, and I made sure that I did my daily practice every day, even if that was merely lighting a candle. Toward the end of chemo, I held a circle during which I cut all of my plastic wrist bracelets from the hospital (which I had saved) into two pieces and had everyone write a directive on one of the pieces. Then I would pick one at random each day. The messages ranged from "blog your wisdom", "align with family", "discover yourself", to "visit South America." The directives are still on my altar for me to use as messages for my days.” -- veedub thumbnail veedub, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, Stage III

“I would get out of the house and hike, walk, discuss books or other activities that take my mind off of my cancer. My oncologist tells me that I have done all of the hard work with treatment and now it is time to live a normal life. I am trying to take his advice.“ -- nancibee thumbnail nancibee, Uterine Cancer

“The biggest factor was mental strength and the will to fight. I found that never second-guessing yourself and having a positive attitude can do wonders. Its OK to cry and complain but never doubt that you can get better.” -- leannemas, Thyroid Cancer

Joining a Community Service Incentive

Survivors say that sometimes it is best to get involved with a community service group that either includes people of the same diagnosis or is working to raise money and awareness for your same type of cancer.

“My family and church provided an excellent support system. I also started volunteering for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society first as a walker (I could not complete the first walk, too tired) but went anyway and have formed some very good friends through the fundraisers.” -- sweethart2912 thumbnail sweethart2912, Chronic Myeloid Leukemia

Unexpected Places

Hoda Kotb, host of NBC's Today, received advice in an unexpected place, a stranger on a plane. The stranger said, “Breast cancer is part of you; it’s like working at NBC and getting married and going to college. Don’t hog your journey; it’s not just for you; think of how many people you could have helped on the way home.”

WhatNexter’s have found support in unexpected places as well. You never know who will rise to the occasion when you are diagnosed with cancer.

I found some of my support in unlikely places. I was surprised to find support from my work family. One of my initial fears when I was diagnosed was ‘Where will the money come from? How am I going to pay for this?’ Work made sure that I never missed a paycheck; never had my benefits dropped, and never had to worry about not being able to return to my job. (FMLA didn’t apply to me since I was only there for 8 months before diagnosis) They also were some of my only visitors I allowed during my first year, I hated people seeing this former soldier, athlete, and macho man reduced to a crumpled mess. This will be the last place I ever work!” -- jreinhardt thumbnail jREINHARDT, Brain Cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme, Grade IV

“One of the best resources I have is actually because of my insurance. My plan has a vendor who handles all chemo/radiation claims. Because this vendor wants to make sure that billing is correct and that the treatment is according to protocol, blah, blah, blah, I got my very own nurse case manager. I was able to ask a whole bunch of stupid questions to her -- if she thought it was important, she'd tell me to call the medical oncologist or ask him about it at our next appointment, depending on how imminently important it was. Jami was a lifesaver. I usually corresponded via email instead of calling her, and because I tend to be incredibly sarcastic, she always got a hoot out of my correspondence.” -- buckeyeshelby thumbnail BuckeyeShelby, Uterine Cancer, Stage IV

WhatNexter's Responses

You can read more about how people survived specific cancers by clicking on the links below.

Breast Cancer
Lung Cancer
Colorectal Cancer
Neck-Throat Cancer
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
Ovarian Cancer
Brain Cancer
Prostate Cancer
Endometrial Cancer
Skin Cancer - Melanoma
Pancreatic Cancer
Thyroid Cancer
Hodgkin Disease
Cervical Cancer
Multiple Myeloma

Related Guides - See all Guides

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What to Expect

Telling Family and Friends

Telling Your Children

    • Molly72's Avatar

      Where is the link for Sarcoma, an "orphan" cancer?

      about 6 years ago
    • GregP_WN's Avatar

      Molly, go to our diagnoses page at and type in Sarcoma, you will see 10 different dx's for Sarcoma each with sub types. Let me know if you need more help.

      about 6 years ago