Be kind to yourself first

Before you can be kind to others, you need to be kind to yourself. Cancer is a scary and overwhelming experience; you may feel lonely, anxious, depressed, or even angry toward those around you. While it’s OK to feel these things, you should also try to be kind to yourself during this time. You may find that being gentle and sensitive to your needs during this time helps you feel less alone and less overwhelmed by your diagnosis.

Talk to your doctor, nurses and other health care providers

When you first meet with your healthcare provider, ask about ways you can help ease your symptoms and make your treatment experience easier. While your healthcare team is there to help you through treatment, they may not completely understand the challenges you face due to your diagnosis. In addition to the obvious challenges that come with treatment, people with cancer often face challenges related to communication with family and friends. You may find that exploring ways to make your treatment experience easier will also help ease your communication concerns. You may also want to discuss potential challenges with family and friends, as sometimes you can give someone a heads up about how certain situations may make you feel (such as how certain food options make you feel sick).

Ask for what you need

You are not a machine, and you are not a puppet. You are a human being with feelings and emotions. You may need to ask your healthcare providers or loved ones for extra hugs, for time out of social events, for a break from work or school, for a change in diet, or for more privacy. These things may not be “politically correct,” but they are very important to you and your well-being. When someone with cancer asks for a break from a loved one, that person may get it. However if no one asks, the person with cancer may not be able to ask for a break.

Learn about cancer risk assessments and protective factors

As you adjust to your diagnosis and treatment, you may find it helpful to gain an understanding of cancer risk assessments, protective factors, and survival statistics. In particular, you may want to look into the following: Risk assessments – cancers with lower risk factors or certain treatments can often be treated with fewer side effects, or not at all.

Help support each other’s emotional wellbeing

When someone is facing a long-term illness, it’s especially important to be kind to yourself. You may find that taking time for yourself, trying new things, or exploring activities that are outside of your typical comfort zone brings you closer to feeling emotionally well. You may also want to consider seeking professional therapy or counseling to help with the challenges you face as a person with cancer. While you may feel like you don’t have time for these things during your busy daily schedule, remember that these services are often available for free, or at a low cost.

Take a break from social media and online news outlets

Social media and online news outlets can be a great source of support and information for people living with cancer. However, it is also important to remember that both of these spaces can offer a platform for others to share negative and inaccurate information about cancer. It’s important to take a break from social media sites and online news outlets once or twice a week; staying disconnected from these spaces can help you to disconnect from the constant stream of negative and inaccurate information.


As you navigate the difficult challenges of a long-term illness, you need to remember that you are not alone. You are living with cancer, and you are also a person. You are smart and talented enough to navigate these challenges, and you deserve to feel happy and supported. Having a support system of family, friends, healthcare providers, and other cancer advocates can help you feel less isolated and more ready to face the challenges that lie ahead.

Ronald Bissell Compassionate Voices Articles and Blog