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Tips for Coping with Cancer from a 15-Year Survivor

by Jeannine Walston

In 1998 when I was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 24 years old, I knew nothing about cancer. Since then, with two awake brain surgeries and many other cancer therapies, my experiences have cultivated insights for optimal survivorship. Through my health and healing journey, I’ve garnered essential wisdom to thrive, and gained knowledge from extensive cancer-related professional work. My personal and professional work has even helped thousands of other cancer survivors along the way.

To cope with cancer, survivors and their caregivers need to gather reliable information, seek out helpful resources, and then take quality actions to support their health and well-being. This process takes time and a passionate commitment. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Make yourself a priority each day.

Embrace Self-Care Daily
Make yourself a priority each day. Breathe, relax, get adequate sleep, eat healthy, use mind-body support practices, optimize your spiritual and social connections, use stress-reduction techniques, and address your needs. Your health and overall wellness re­quires your awareness, attention, and positive actions.

Advocate for Yourself
Being informed and proactive about your care leads to the best possible outcomes. Conduct quality research on your disease through the most reliable experts and resources. Seek multiple opinions. Ask your healthcare team questions. Make informed decisions. Be open to changing directions when necessary.

Create a Support Team
Support from others is necessary when moving through cancer toward optimal health and heal­ing. Create a community of family members and friends to help you navigate the journey. Various types of resources are also avail­able by phone, in person, and online that can help you develop and organize support. Find what works for you. Be open to explor­ing new options. Connecting with others strongly supports healing and reminds you that you are never alone.

View Challenges as Opportunities
Life often presents challenges. But those challenges can in turn present opportunities. Healing opportunities are available to each one of us. In your healing process, evaluate yourself and your life. Get rid of anything that does not support your optimal wellness. Add improvements. Make better choices. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it.

Choose Quality Providers
If possible, choose an oncologist with expertise in your specific type of cancer. Quality cancer care includes treating not only the cancer but also the whole person. Assemble a team of providers tending to each as­pect of your health and healing. Make sure that you get what you need. Integrative cancer care is meant to improve both your quality of life and your chance of survival.

Strive for Whole-Person Wellness
From the beginning of the healing process, cancer survivors can benefit from learning about and improving their whole-person wellness. For people with cancer, whole-person wellness includes taking care of their physical body, mind, and spirit, as well as their social and environmental health. Those components interact with and influence one another, interdependently shaping each cancer survivor.

Choose Love
Love yourself. The most funda­mental dimension to health and healing requires loving yourself. Love heals

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Brain cancer survivor Jeannine Walston shares information and inspiration to support optimal health and healing through her educational website Her services include working as a cancer coach and navigator, writing and consulting, and public speaking. In addition to her website, you can connect with Jeannine at and

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, November/December 2013.