cancer patient looking in mirror

Advice from cancer survivors to cancer patients

At City of Hope, our network of cancer survivors is a strong, brave, passionate group of fighters. These individuals are an inspiration to everyone — especially to cancer patients currently in treatment. For National Cancer Survivor Month, we asked our cancer survivor community if they had any advice for newly diagnosed cancer patients. Here is some of the guidance they shared.

Get a second opinion.

One piece of practical advice several survivors mentioned was the need to get a second opinion when diagnosed with cancer. Cancer is a serious, life-changing illness. You must ensure your diagnosis is correct to achieve the best possible outcome. If you want to come to City of Hope for a second opinion, you can learn more here.

Lean on your community.

Fighting cancer can be an isolating experience, so it is essential to connect with others when you can. The people who genuinely love you will always show up for you when you need them, and you should let them support you. In addition to your loved ones, several of our survivors discussed the importance of connecting with other cancer patients who understand the nuances of what you may be going through. City of Hope offers several support groups for cancer patients and their families. 

Remain positive — but know it is OK to fall apart.

Many of the survivors we spoke to emphasized the need to stay positive. Finding joy in life’s small pleasures, like talking to a friend, spending time in the fresh air, reading a new book or cuddling with a pet can help. Keeping a gratitude journal can also help remind you of everything you have to be thankful for despite your challenges. And when the darkness is overwhelming, and you cannot seem to find the light, talk to your care team and seek out the support of a mental health professional. Believing that you deserve to be happy, even during your hardest days, and trusting others to help you find that happiness is an incredible act of optimism.

Several survivors also mentioned that while positivity is important, so is allowing yourself to feel your negative emotions. Cry when you have to cry. Get angry when you feel mad. And there is nothing wrong with a pity party from time to time. All your emotions are valid, and ignoring the negative ones can cause great emotional pain. Allow yourself to feel it all.

Maintain a spiritual practice.

Whether you pray, meditate, attend religious services or follow a different spiritual practice, many of our survivors discussed the importance of connecting with something bigger than themselves. So often, we focus on the physical health of cancer patients, but one’s emotional and spiritual health must also be tended to while undergoing cancer treatment. City of Hope offers various spiritual care services to help you care for your mind, body and spirit.

Never give up.

One resounding message from the survivors we spoke to was: Never give up. Keep fighting, and never underestimate the strength of your will to survive. A cancer journey can push you to your limits, and several of our survivors said they did not know how strong they were until they beat cancer. That inner strength lives in all of us. Trust that yours will help you push through.