Survival Skills: Living With Cancer

You are a survivor. Cancer can deliver a one-two punch, but there are ways to lessen the blows. While the diagnosis can pack a wallop, the second blow—treatment—can be eased.

As others are cured or live for long periods free of the disease and research continues, certain life-maximizing practices have arisen. Here are some strategies for becoming a survivor.

Learn to ask for and accept help.
Besides accepting help, you have to be willing to ask for it when you need it, even for such mundane tasks as picking up a few groceries.

Check with your oncologist about physical activity.
The National Cancer Institute notes that physical activity may modify the carcinogenic process through many routes and at many stages. Recent evidence suggests a protective effect of physical activity against cancers of the colon, breast and prostate. Cancer patients do become deconditioned, but in breast cancer, for example, research has found that certain exercise improves quality of life and is even trending toward improvement in outcomes. Find a well-trained oncologist by calling 678-312-5000 or click here.

Address your change in appearance.
One of the greater societal breakthroughs is that people are more accepting of the temporary cosmetic challenges of people going through treatment. Show you have no hair, or wear a hat, scarf or wig—whatever works for you. Gwinnett Medical Center offers the Look Good...Feel Better sessions help women undergoing cancer treatment cope with the appearance related side effects of cancer treatment. To register for the next monthly session, call 1-888-227-6333. 

Realize you may need temporary help with depression.
It’s a challenging time, and reactive depression of varying severity can appear. If you feel depressed and aren’t coming out of it, take action and talk to your doctor. A positive attitude alone might not fix it. In fact, the idea of keeping a positive attitude actually works against some people, who may feel guilty that they weren’t “positive” enough during treatment. A short course of antidepressants along with some support may be needed.

Be confident in the approach.
Read. Ask questions. You want a sense of confidence in your care team. If there is some disconnect, you might want to have a discussion with your caregiver and, if necessary, get a second opinion. The last thing you need is a sense of regret—thinking, ‘I wish I had.’ Many patients use the Internet as a sounding board, asking their care team about information they’ve read and if it rings true. It is also a good idea to check the National Cancer Institute’s website at and the American Cancer Society’s at

Find support.
Knowing someone who has been there can make a world of difference.
Support can range from the national Y-ME group, which matches breast cancer survivors/counselors with those undergoing treatment, to local and Internet groups. Gwinnett Medical Center offers a women's cancer support group. For more information, call 

Gwinnett Medical Center's cancer program is accredited by the Commission on CancerAs a cancer patient, receiving treatment at a CoC-accredited cancer center will ensure that you are receiving quality cancer care that includes state-of-the-art technology, a multidisciplinary team approach to ensure you receive the best available treatment options, information about clinical trials and more. 


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